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Insect Media

Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology

Jussi Parikka
Series: Posthumanities
Volume: 11
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Insect Media
    Book Description:

    Insect Media analyzes how insect forms of social organization—swarms, hives, webs, and distributed intelligence—have been used to structure modern media technologies and the network society. Through close engagement with the pioneering work of insect ethologists, posthumanist philosophers, media theorists, and contemporary filmmakers and artists, Jussi Parikka provides a radical new perspective on the interconnection of biology and technology.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7524-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Insects in the Age of Technology
    (pp. ix-xxxvi)

    First, a practical exercise. Pick up an entomology book; something such as Thomas Eisner’sFor the Love of Insectsfrom a couple of years back will do fine, or an older book from the nineteenth century, like John Lubbock’sOn the Senses, Instincts, and Intelligence of Animals with Special Reference to Insects(1888) suits the purpose as well. However, do not read the book as a description of the biology of those tiny insects or solely as an excavation of the microcosmic worlds of entomology. Instead, if you approach it as media theory, it reveals a whole new world of...

    (pp. 1-26)

    This chapter offers key background for subsequent chapters and revolves around three themes, all of which characterize the nineteenth century:

    1. The rise of modern biology from the start of the century, and the emergence of its now most prominent representative, Charles Darwin, with his theory of evolution. The Great Chain of Divine Being was gradually confronted with a temporally radical and materialist theory of evolution in which the continuity of life forms was intimately coupled with and restricted by their environment. This temporality also opened up a future for forms of life so far unknown.

    2. The emergence of modern technical...

  6. TWO GENESIS OF FORM Insect Architecture and Swarms
    (pp. 27-56)

    The previous chapter analyzed the notion of the insect machine expressed in early entomology, the capturing of the affects of the animal world, and the logic of the invertebrate in Bergson’s philosophy. Bergson acted in the chapter as a pathway between various themes of the entomological discourse and detachment of the technological, or the artifice, from the human body. Similarly, as new media technologies such as telegraphy or various new modes of transportation seemed to deterritorialize the human being into a new assemblage of communication, perception, and thought, the idea of looking for the “origins” of technology in primitive life...

    (pp. 57-84)

    This chapter continues some of the ideas introduced previously but with a special eye on Jakob von Uexküll’s ethology—and the conceptual “animal” the tick. Through the tick we are able to discuss more in-depth notions of temporality and affect and realize that Uexküll provided important insights into a dynamic notion of nature relevant to wider theoretical applications of media ecologies.

    One of Eugene Thacker’s key ideas in his take on swarms, networks, and multitudes was to differentiate between effects and affects.¹ Whereas an effect analysis would stabilize the entities involved and regard them as predefined, an affect approach would...

    (pp. 85-112)

    Even though the previous chapter addressed temporality as a key theme of insect media and the ethological analysis of affects, we neglected the theme of metamorphosis. However, metamorphosis marks for the majority of us a defining feature of the image of “insect life”: transformation, development, and change. Hence, it is a concept of temporality par excellence in which variation becomes a defining and primary feature of “identity.” This proneness to change was evident in the caterpillar’s arrogant response to Alice in Wonderland, and it has been a constant source of research for both entomologists and also as a much broader...

  9. Intermezzo
    (pp. 113-120)

    The nineteenth century brought a curious crystallization of the early interest in capturing animal affects. On the one hand, the scientific and technological mechanisms for measuring, defining, and reproducing animal affects were for the first time designed in a rigorous manner and as the basis of the future media culture of reproducing animal sensations but outside animal bodies. On the other hand, radical ideas of nonteleological evolution, the activity of animal matter and instinct, and noncentralized modes of action and communication emerged, which already represented themes crucial for the contemporary consideration of what kinds of modes of organization the network...

  10. FIVE ANIMAL ENSEMBLES, ROBOTIC AFFECTS Bees, Milieus, and Individuation
    (pp. 121-144)

    Quite often the Second World War is represented as the dividing line between two worlds: the industrial era of modernization and the postindustrial era of computers, network technologies, and “postmodernization.” The concerted planning, funding, and building of intelligent information systems from signal engineering to computing and social systems took off during that postwar period branded by the Macy Conferences in Cybernetics (1946–1953), officially titled Cybernetics: Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems. The conferences synthesized much of the interest in research into animal worlds, affects, and technological systems and represented a peculiar social institution in themselves—...

  11. SIX BIOMORPHS AND BOIDS Swarming Algorithms
    (pp. 145-168)

    The previous chapter continued the ethological emphasis of this book. According to my argument, the “insect question” is one of relations of exteriority, temporal unfolding, and affects instead of just an expression of preformulated instinct-response patterns that denote a mechanical vision of the animal. Paradoxically, this is where the stance also digresses from some of the established notions of ethology. Figures such as Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tingbergen helped to establish the constancy of the instincts (or “movement forms,” for Lorenz) that are structures of impulse-reaction. Such a position assumes that there is an already existing structural archive of possible...

  12. SEVEN SEXUAL SELECTION IN THE BIODIGITAL Teknolust and the Weird Life of SRAs
    (pp. 169-194)

    The previous chapter concluded with the ethological question of relationality and sustainability. In what kind of relations and conditions can software persist? We pointed toward the affect relations between software objects and suggested that we think of software in itself not only as extensive spatialization of the intensive lifeworlds but as intensive individuation in which the lived perception of relations is a crucial feature. Such characteristics are not only part of the metaphorics of insect media but are quite materially incorporated in the logic of object-oriented programming.

    In addition, the sustainability of software as a cultural form comes from nontechnical...

  13. EPILOGUE Insect Media as an Art of Transmutation
    (pp. 195-206)

    Sarah Peebles’s electroacoustic recordingInsect Grooves(2002) is an exemplary mix of imaginary media and high technology. Indeed the humming, ticking, scratching, vibrating, chirping, and flapping sounds make up a groove reminiscent of something that we might believe an insect orchestra could fabricate. For example, crickets make their noise through a vibratory rubbing of their wings, a sound that can be described as a combination of “a stringed and a percussion instrument.” However, they can also tune their chirping with other crickets, which produces a pulsating synchrony.¹ The pulse is an index of granules finding common relations that turn into...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 207-270)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 271-282)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 283-283)