Meet the Man Behind Prosthetic Knowledge, One of the Most Influential Tech Tumblrs in the World
A floating orb that records its surroundings. A Steve Reich/Pac-Man mashup. A first-person-hacker Oculus Rift game. A wearable device that produces sounds from a dancer’s movements. A tank “driven” by a goldfish.
Welcome to the world of Prosthetic Knowledge, an influential art-tech Tumblr that features a fascinating and relentless stream of creative projects and experiments from around the world. Anybody with a taste for cutting-edge tech and experimentation has probably encountered the Tumblr—even if only indirectly.
Every Prosthetic Knowledge post gets hundreds of likes and reblogs, and many get picked up by the mainstream tech press and beyond. Several of the stories about bizarre, experimental technologies that you read online will have originated with blog posts on Prosthetic Knowledge.
A post on Oculus Rift-enabled gender-swap experiment The Machine To Be Another, for instance, was way ahead of web observers such as, um, me. Prosthetic Knowledge citations pop up everywhere from The Verge to Kottke to Laughing Squid. One post even inspired fan fiction (about a branch burning on power lines).
Part of the appeal is the unique way the site presents its finds: straightforward text, often directly quoted from the maker of whatever project is being highlighted, usually combined with a handful of purpose-built GIFs that make even the most baroque experiments seem irresistible.
The floating orb that records its surroundings, as seen on Prosthetic Knowledge.
So who is behind this thing? The answer turns out to be Rich Oglesby, a friendly 37-year-old Brit in Oxfordshire, England, who oddly enough has never been interviewed before now. Oglesby explained to me the origins of Prosthetic Knowledge in a simple phrase: “Blogging therapy.”
And, as it turns out, I reached him at a moment when he’s flirting with trying to convert his therapeutic hobby into something bigger.
Oglesby says he did a couple of years of computer studies back in school, and then, because of his interest in the graphic and artistic possibilities of technology, spent a couple of years studying art. “Biggest career mistake I ever made,” he says with a laugh. He never finished that art degree and ended up working in Internet research for a variety of employers—“basically a data-serf,” as he describes it.