New technologies are loaded with metaphorical references to insects, many of which are normalized in language such as the concept of a World Wide Web. Allusions to bees, ants, dragonflies (anything that can fit the non-scientific category of “bug”) reveal our ideals of efficiency as humans evolving with machines, while hinting at the concept of technology as its own alive and buzzing entity.
This bug-machine connection can be as horrific as the intelligent parasitic monster that invades a spaceship in Ridley Scott’s Alien trilogy, and as sweet and enlightening as the friendship between a robot and a cockroach on an otherwise lifeless earth in Pixar’s Wall-E. These examples blend the fetishized sleekness of technological futures with a more primordial and uncontrollable energy, provoking fears of mortality and obsolescence, and exciting us into imagining what our role as humans might be in a world of apocalypse-resistant critters and increasingly intelligent machines.
These ideas were at the core of the Bugs and Machines workshop at School of MA. The event involved group dialogue, a talk from the veterinary parasitologist, Susana Fereira, a drawing activity about bodily fears, and a playful encounter with live madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Topics that surfaced included the parasitic mind-control qualities of technologies that work their ways into daily life and thought patterns, as well as the connectivity aspect of technology that allows people to unite with one another through signals of information that spread in global webs and flows. Attendees included bug enthusiasts, bug-phobics, artists, writers, and other types of human beings.