Galloway and Paul-Choudhury talk to the animals

25 May

Forged sometime in 2005 in the memetic crucible of 4chan, the combination of an amusing cat picture and an Impact-fonted one-liner took the web by storm. Cat pictures on the internet were, of course, nothing new. Ailurophiles had long uploaded photographs of their beloved moggies with fond, wry and occasionally despairing captions. But the LOLcat format provided a schema for representing an animal’s inner life. And as networking technology has developed further, that schema has expanded to encompass newer forms of media, and ever more sophisticated representation of cats – and other animals.

Anne Galloway stopped by Arc on her way through London – a happy accident for us, as Anne Galloway is a Canadian ex-pat living in New Zealand. We knew of her as the woman who attached a good number of New Zealand’s sheep to the internet, turning that country’s shepherds into mouse-clicking desk jockeys.

Trained in sociology and anthropology, Anne now teaches courses in design and culture at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research investigates relations amongst people, places, animals and technologies. Basically, this means she spends as much time as she can hanging out with merino sheep and imagining possible futures for their production and consumption.

Conversations between her and New Scientist’s editor Sumit Paul-Choudhury (also the eminence grise behind Arc) gave rise to Nobody Knows You’re a Dog, a lead feature in Arc 1.2, out next Monday for screens, e-readers, phones, tablets, and in a collectible print edition.

“There aren’t many real, unmediated cats on the internet,” they say. “But we can change that. Stick a tiny camera to your cat’s collar and you can get regular snapshots of its predatory or amorous adventures: a lifelog for your cat. Add a few other sensors, and your moggy can join the quantified self movement; and if you watch in widescreen HD – or a pair of AR spex – it will be almost as though you were there.

“But again, there are questions to be asked about the value of this sense of connection. Epizoic media might give us some hints about what it feels like to be cat, or a tiger, making its daily rounds, but these are inevitably filtered by our own human perceptions and preconceptions…”

Visit and buy Arc 1.2 for more.

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