By: Aria Sedehi /
I chose the social platform, Tumblr as the focus for this presentation because I feel that it exemplifies this expanding relationship between humans and technology, in which case we become one with the platform and consequently fuel a dictation of sorts and by becoming engulfed in this online community, inter-subjectivity arises in the ongoing materialization of animals, specifically in this case, canines. I think it is important to illustrate the shift in our daily encounters with technology and nature becoming exceedingly unbalanced benefiting the former and how Donna Haraway’s shift to focus on the companionship of dogs as a ways of understanding histories and naturecultures takes a halt as a result.
I challenge whether the idea that this “cyborgian wound” that Haraway mentions is more problematic or resolving of the “Great divide” between human and nature. What are we to make of a social platform like Tumblr which portrays images of animals in various lights in this quest to sort of recognize animals, not as utilities, but as mutual? On one hand, Tumblr promotes a curiosity of canine’s daily doings and interactions with human and non-human animals, as well as machines. It forces the consumer to look and observe, while at the same time objectifying the non-human animal as a source of amusement for the human subject. Thousands of people may experience an encounter one human subject may have had with his household dog which again creates this inter-subjectivity that distances human subjects or cyborgs rather to an area lacking anything personal. Human subjects may feel a connection with the non-human animal we see through the screen, but since that non-human cannot feel or encounter the human subject viewing from the comfort of their laptop, what is actually being done to pursue mutual constitutive?
So to begin, the drawing shown on the left was briefly mentioned and displayed in Donna Haraway’s When Species Meet. It is drawn by the cartoonist, Dan Piraro. This illustration partially inspired my research question because it prompted thoughts about the current state of the relationship between dogs and other non-human animals with human animals. Since this was drawn in 1999, it made me consider how several years down the road, the Internet has come to serve as an even larger threat to canines and other non-human animals.
The photograph in Figure 1 is from a blog advocating adoption of animals from animal shelters and the photograph in Figure 2 is from a blog called animalsdoing humanthings.com. Immediately, you could tell the disparities between the two photographs. The differences in lighting, the ways in which the dogs are presented are completely different. The photograph of the rescued dog comes with a caption, which outlines its history of being used in a dogfighting ring. It’s informative, while also creating an awareness of the animal’s struggles with coping in society. The other photograph comes with a caption that reads, “professor dog”. Figure 1 also only has 6 notes, whereas “Professor Dog” has over 9,000
These two photos taken from animalsdoinghumanthings.tumblr.com. The photo on the left has over 10,000 notes, which means that it has either been favorite or reblogged onto other people’s personal blogs. The photograph on the right has over 200,000 notes. Both photographs illustrate anthropomorphism in an attempt to garner more notes and more followers.
The photograph of the dog in the get-up has a caption below it that reads, “How many I help you today? We have a sale on male cardigans for the fall weather”. While provoking a series of pleasures, this photograph recreates the dog as a literal human animal capable of speaking, wearing clothes and working a job in retail. We aren’t truly encountering the canine then, instead we’re viewing a mirrored image of ourselves in the form of a cute furry animal. It is the same way cartoonist create animal characters with human abilities to make them seem less intimidating or serious and more likable. In a way, I feel as though the photographs attempt to destroy the history of household pets by manipulating the actuality of their presence. It doesn’t appear so much as encountering, but rather displaying a case of human selfishness. This is not to say that all humans are selfish, but that these images naturalize and manipulate what we see in our everyday lives.
That brings me to my next point about the significance of these images being reblogged over and over again for human consumption. By this occurring, a naturalizing of different actions is taking place. It is naturalizing the act of non-human animals being put into human clothes and given human-like identities.
Another question I was concerned about with this project was whether we became more “worldy” and I believe the answer is yes and no. We are communicating on platforms such as Tumblr and connecting with people we would have otherwise never spoken to further establishing relationships with the other human animals. However, the disconnect between Human and Non-human animals is increasing. The borders between fiction and non-fiction are become blurred and without explanations, there are generations who will grow up on the Internet and on platforms like Tumblr and inherit the view of what the world looks like according to the internet.
In the spirit of Haraway, I came across an article on popular science (Links below) about the effects of viewing cute animals on the Internet. And the researcher, Rebecca Dyer, a graduate student at Yale University found that even though humans feel an inherent need to want to squeeze the cute animals they across on the internet, it actually produces a form of aggression as opposed to pleasure, proving that it could be somewhat detrimental to one’s health. And this faces the study that Donna Haraway was apart of which discusses health benefits that having a companion animals in one’s home and the decrease in overall stress that accompanies it.
- Franklin, Adrian, Michael Emmison, Donna Haraway and Max Travers (2007) “Investigating the therapeutic benefits of companion animals: Problems and challenges.” Qualitative Sociology Review, Vol. III Issue 1. Retrieved March2014 http://www.egs.edu/faculty/donna-haraway/articles/investigating-the-therapeutic-benefits-of-companion-animals/
- Ferro, Shaunacy (2013) “Why do we want to squeeze cute things?”, Popular Science. Retrieved March 2014 http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-01/science-says-adorable-animals-turn-us-aggressive
- Haraway, Donna, The Companion Species Manifesto (Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003)
- Haraway, Donna. When Species Meet (University of Minnesota Press, 2008)