Things and Objects

October 1, 2014

tardigrade-world 1

Illustration: The world of the “Waterbears” filtered through a human mind.

The Slowstepper (Waterbear) lives in the swamps, mosses or lichen, encircling the extended wetlands in the north of Sweden, drawn to the uniformity of the drifting colours – ochre, brown, green, mint – and the calmness of the heterogeneous. These waterbears have got cousins all over the world, in the deep oceans, at top of the Himalaya, in the equator regions and around the polar circle. Humans discovered the waterbears in the 18th century but still don’t know a lot about them, they tend to focus on trivial matters as for example how close to a volcano a waterbear can survive, or looking at them one by one under a low-power microscope.

Most of the time humans do not speak about the waterbears, or even know that they exist, probably due to their petit size, or just pure ignorance.

The waterbear can sleep for many years, drying out in a sun-exposed swamp, then – awaken by a sudden rain some years later. For the waterbears day and night do not exist, only years of wakefulness or years of sleep. Living dead is a comfortable but uncertain state. Drifting between consciousness and death without being scared.

Pretty often they get lost, they might not see it like that but it can be difficult to understand in any other way. If they’ve walked very far they might fall asleep for indefinite time. If one falls asleep the others join, they have really intimate relationships. They understand each other emotionally a lot better than wale’s, which in turn have a lot greater emotionally understanding and connections than humans. Of course humans do not know that, because they think microorganisms are more like plants than animals, stones than living things.

To focus on how the waterbears might feel, on their senses and relationships to their surroundings, we move from seing them as objects and they become things or subjects. When being objects they are without other purpose than to be experimented on, fulfilling some researchers desires. When becoming subjects with their own vital relations and movements they shift from passive objects to having a meaning in themselves, “constantly engaged in a network of relationships”. [1] Jane Bennet describes how an object, like a Gun Powder Residue Sampler, can be given meaning and thereby becoming more than just a thing , becoming an actant. The actant “is that which does something”.[2] In that way, depending on how we choose to look at things they will be given different meanings.

Not only by how we look at things will determine how we see them, they will also determine how we see ourselves. This has been clear in the researches about humans, where researchers have been seeking answers about themselves by looking at the chimpanzee. Thereby excusing the violent behaviour exercised by man by pointing at the chimpanzee saying ‘it’s “natural”’. Choosing the chimpanzee instead of the Pygmy chimpanzee (Bonobo), both equally genetically related to humans, makes humans see certain behaviours as “natural”.[3] For example problem solving through violence becomes “natural”, whereas the Bonobo solves problems through lovemaking.

You can choose a study object or focus out of a feminist awareness. I choose to focus on emotions, senses not often focused on when talking about technology. I choose not to objectify, either animals, organisms or man. I choose not to follow traditional waterproof disciplines but to seek inter-disciplinary cooperation’s. I choose poetry and storytelling rather than one-dimensional “truths”. I choose the waterbear as a surface for feminist projections, may those projections be truths or far fetched utopias.

/Tove Grönroos


[1] Jane Bennet, ‘The Force of Things: Steps Toward an Ecology of Matter’, in Political Theory, Vol. 32, No. 3, June 2004, pp. 354

[2] Ibid, pp, 355

[3] 2014-09-30


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