Playful Encounters with Animals

Designing playful engagements with animals to find, imagine, or emphasize non-speciesist practices

Playful Encounters with Ants

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How would you describe your relationship with insects? Specifically with ants? As humans we usually don’t relate to the kinds of animals we don’t recognize ourselves in such as snails, anchovies, frogs, or bees. However, ecological systems on this planet are dependent on these animals and we are currently investigating new ways to ensure that these kinds of species do not go extinct. Is our interest in caring for specific species solely based on their attractiveness and the amount of similarities we share with them? What if we can start to change our relationships with insects by exploring their playfulness together?

With these questions in mind I recently started a project in which I try to investigate the possibilities for humans and ants to play together. In order to do this I started a small ant colony at my workspace inside the Malmö University building. The first few weeks I am trying to get to know the ants and their preferred living environment. I will then continue to explore to what extend it is possible to engage in playful encounters together with ants through prototyping different (potentially playful) artefacts.

Part of this project involves a workshop at the 12th Student Interaction Design and Research conference (SIDeR), which will be held in Malmö on April 1-2, 2016. During this workshop we will explore and discuss this topic through the design of playful interactions with ants taking a perspective informed by posthumanism. We will use different materials to rapidly prototype playful interactions and games that aim to be of interest to both ants and humans. Then we will try out the prototypes we created with an actual Lasius Niger colony (the regular black ant) and discuss our experiences and the types of questions that these practices could propose.

(featured image from Flickr user Yogendra174)

3 comments on “Playful Encounters with Ants

  1. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas
    April 3, 2016

    How did this go?

    I always thought that making an ant that would use pattern recognition to learn the behavioural signals and then repeat them out and learn about ant-ant communication this way would be amazing. Also presented the idea behind ‘sim-ants’ at BHCI last year

  2. michellewesterlaken
    April 5, 2016

    Thanks for your comment, that’s so interesting! The workshop went great, I’ll be writing about what happened soon in a new post :)

  3. Pingback: Now Live: Escape Room Challenges with Ants | Inviting Animals as Players

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This entry was posted on March 7, 2016 by and tagged , , , , , , , .
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