Welcome to Virtual Menageries
A cat can look at a king, and even at a philosopher (Derrida), but can it talk to him on the phone? Countless billboards and televisionslots, websites and blogs, comic strips, YouTube videos and digital art projects are exploring this scenario. Digital cats, puppies, unicorns, insects, snakes, birds, butterflies, monkeys, beavers, hybrids, monsters, cyborgs, and other species constitute a new “virtual menagerie,” both in a literal sense as animals that populate the virtual spaces of a technologically mediated reality, and also in terms of a broader understanding of virtuality that draws from philosophies of immanence and becoming, theories of risk society, popular culture, digital aesthetics and the political subject, suggesting that we are becoming … something (something else?) in connection with these menageries.
“Virtual menageries” provides the opportunity to theorize the place of animals in the media spaces of network culture in relation to diverse agencies and sites: the utopian ideologies and corporate logos of digital innovators, the consumer culture of mobility, the diffusion of children’s animal imaginaries, the remobilization of global nationalism, the militarization of the telecommunications industry, the hidden production and export of toxic e-waste being sent to developing countries that are habitats for many of these same animals, the ascendancy of affect as a mode of governmentality and anti-governmentality, the popular dissemination of portals, blogs, and imaging technologies, the emotional ally charged status of animals today, and the growth of the so-called creative economy. “Virtual Menageries” examines specific animal-machine-human entities in the context of these issues, and explores their significance to contemporary culture.