Anna Munster about the Monkey Selfie

Today at Techno-Collectivities Conference in Konstanz, Anna Munster gives a talk on Collectivation and Techno-Animalities – The Case of the Monkey Selfie

Abstract:

In 2011, David Slater, a wildlife photographer, generated a ‘selfie’ with a Macaque monkey, a camera and remote trigger button in a Sulawesi jungle in Indonesia. Slater licensed one of the resulting images – a female Macaque who had pressed the trigger while smiling into the lens – as a ‘monkey selfie’ to a news agency. The image went viral and its republication by Techdirt and Wikimedia triggered a suite of copyright, anti-copyright and judicial rulings concerning creativity, personhood and technicity.

The animal-human-camera participatory assemblage of the ‘monkey selfie’ both poses a different kind of relationality and triggers retreat into proprietary techniques and subjectivations. This talk will explore medial-animal assemblages as emergent formations of a more-than-human collectivation at this conjunction. I will propose that such collectivities and modes of participation can only be understood transversally; that is, in terms of components that barely hold the assemblage together, yet are its most creative, allowing components to prehend each other. In the ‘monkie selfie’, the transversal is monkey-camera play. We, then, become more-than-human in relation to the monkey selfie insofar as ‘we’ also play with the monkey’s smile – a diagrammatic image of its play – by continuing the image’s refrain across networked distribution.

Anna Munster is an associate professor in Art and Design, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. Her book, An Aesthesia of Networks ( MIT Press, 2013) explores new expressions of networks beyond the ‘link-node’ image and new understandings of experience that account for relationality in contemporary assemblages of human and nonhuman technics. She is also the author of Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aesthetics (2006), which won a ‘highly commended’ in the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica Media Research category.  She is a founding member of the online peer-reviewed journal The Fibreculture Journal and has published with journals such as Inflexions, CTheory, Culture Machine and Theory, Culture and Society. She is a co-applicant on the project, Immediations: Art Media, Event directed by Erin Manning that explores novel speculative and radical empiricist concepts of the event through research creation. Anna Munster is also a practicing media artist who regularly collaborates with Michele Barker. Their media environments explore animal, human and more-than-human movement and perception.

 

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