Tuesday, March 01, 2011

“Social insects provided lessons in strange, unrecognized forms of being social."

 Book: Insect Media. An Archaeology of Animals and Technology. Jussi Parikka. University of Minnesota Press,2010
In our final installment dedicated to Jussa Parrika‘s book, two excerpts showing how the internet and media are extensions of animality, rather than of our humanity:

Genesis of Form: Insect Architecture and Swarms

From chapter II:

“Social insects provided lessons in strange, unrecognized forms of being social. A good example is found in Maeterlinck’s novel A Life of the Bee (1901), in which the topic of “the spirit of the hive” is constantly brought up. It could be seen as an expression of mysticism, a natural theology of a kind, but at the same time it connects to the topic of collective intelligence then emerging. Maeterlinck considered this spirit not as a particularly tuned instinct that specifies a task and not as a mechanical habit but as a curious logic that cannot be pinpointed to any specific role, order, or function. The spirit of the hive seems to be responsible for the abrupt but still recurring collective actions that take hold of the bees (as in possessed individuals) and concert their actions as if they were one. The spirit of the hive sees that the individual bees’ actions are harmonized to such an extent that they can exist as a collective: from the queen’s impregnation to the sudden swarming when the bees leave the old nest (without apparent reason) and find a new one, the spirit of the hive is described by a mix of nomadic intuition that “passes the limits of human morality” to the everyday organization of the hive:
It regulates the workers’ labors, with due regard to their age; it allots their task to the nurses who tend the nymphs and the larvae, the ladies of honor who wait on the queen and never allow her out of their sight; the house-bees who air, refresh and heat the hive by fanning their wings, and hasten the evaporation of the honey that may be too highly charged with water; the architects, masons, wax-workers, and sculptors who form the chain and construct the combs; the foragers who sally forth to the flowers in search of the nectar that turns into honey.
This seemingly automated behavior is described by Maeterlinck as a “strange emotion.” Here the emotion acts as a trigger of a kind that points to the way bodies are affectively coordinated in the organizational form. The swarm is a becoming that expresses potentialities that are always situated and yet moving. The affects that trigger the swarming and the birth of the new collective are related to communication in Maeterlinck’s view. This mode of communication happens not on the level of consciousness, human language and concepts, but as affects of murmur, whisper, and a refrain that even the bees might not hear but sense in some uncanny way. (48-50)


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