Posthuman Lanscapes and Urban Conglomerations?

September 25, 2014

What is and what isn’t technology? One could claim, as Judith A McGaw does, that the concept of what is usually called technology is far too limited.[1] History in that sense is therefore also far too limited, focusing on major events often related to hard technology such as spaceships and computer technology etc. In that way we forget the soft technology, if you may call it that, often connected with women.

I start to think of Tardigrades (slowstepper)[2], my sister’s colleague at the University of Lund sends them up in space to see for how long they live. They look like bears in spacesuits and are maybe the most sustained living organism on earth. The Slowstepper (as I prefer to call them) might derive as far back as to the Cambrian period, ie 1-2 million years ago.[3] I think of them because they’ve been on earth much longer than us, and they can thrive in extreme conditions, without having been very much developed under the last hundred or thousand years. They are also very slow, which is indicated by the name, and sometimes they sleep for up to ten years. But what makes me think of them is also what kind of research we do on them, killing them by sending them to extreme places, such as outer space, to se how long they can live. What if, what matters to the Slowstepper is totally other things than we can understand, partly because our idea of research is based on a certain canon and technological field, partly because our methods for understanding them are too limited. I’d like to use the Slowstepper to project ideas about values and gender. Here the Slowstepper might be an organism with a hard skin but with a soft body underneath the skin. It might be an animal that likes to sleep a lot, not only because it can but because it wants to, or to move really slowly in the same kind of landscape year after year. The Slowstepper might value care and food even though it could go on spectacular journeys to extreme places – maybe it finds itself at such extreme places, being really calm about it without bragging. Maybe it’s just a natural part of their life’s, just as kitchen furniture or tampons are non-highlighted parts of our – but just as, or even more, important as they shape our daily life and extend to every part of society.


The Slowstepper might here be a metaphor for Soft (“feminine”) technology and the machine a metaphor for hard (“masculine”) technology:


         Machine <–> Tardigrade

     Fast <–> Slow
Culture <–> Nature
Speed <–> Tea
Car <–> Mouth
Futurism <–> Romanticism
Development <–> Carpe Diem
Growth <–> Stagnation
War <–> Sleep
Control <–> Giggle
Power <–> Passive
Choose <–> Together
Metal <–> Fabric
Angry <–> Calm
Feeder <–> Nurture

/Tove Grönroos


[1] Judith A. McGaw, ‘Why Feminist Technologies Matter’ in Nina E. Lerman, Ruth Oldenziel, Arwen P. Mohun, eds, Gender and Technology: A Reader, Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 2003.

[2] 2014-09-24

[3] 2014-09-24


2 Responses to “Posthuman Lanscapes and Urban Conglomerations?”

  1. tovehanssongronroos Says:

    Thank you Helene, saw this now so maybe I haven’t really considered what you’ve said (since I haven’t seen it) but I surely will think of ways to compare the tardigrades life’s and the swamps to other landscapes and rooms to make it more interesting and dynamic. I have been trying to get in contact with a researcher (on tardigrades) so hopefully I will get some more on my feet when it comes to their pre-human life’s.
    As you will see in my other two posts I’ve been trying to work with a narrative, a kind of story and then link that to something more discussion-like. This is to change perspective (since I’d like to investigate in how to write in a more sensible way-and through writing be more “feministic”) and also because I love children’s books and would like my story-book to be like a “saga” (children’s story).
    Love the infinite Jest-reference, hope to explore the topic of perspectives more in this course!

  2. The Tardigrade will make for an excellent key character or ‘aesthetic persona’ in your posthuman storybook. You might want to have a little look at the Jakob von Uexküll text that is available as a reference text for Meeting 01, where he tries to draw out the different perceptual worlds of different creatures. This also allows you to compare different scenes, for instance, inside a space craft, or else in the ‘natural habitat of the slow-stepper, and even the pre-human landscape, the prehistoric scene into which the Tardigrade emerged. Or you could also posit everyday urban scenes in Stockholm, or elsewhere. I also think the idea of relative speeds and slownesses in relation to ‘environment-world’ is an interesting thing to consider. I recently read the opening chapter of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, where we find a tennis jock at an interview to get a place at an exclusive college. His intelligence is being questioned, and they mistake his initial non-resposiveness to stupidity, when in fact he is thinking super-quick, and his only difficulty in communicating is that he is too fast for their comprehension (so where he believes he is speaking slowly, this around him think he is having a seizure, and uttering inhuman squeaking sounds)…

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