Friday, 24 July 2015

The Hawthorne Effect

My final summer class was yesterday and the end of the session is always bittersweet. When I refer to the term bittersweet I think of a discussion I had with a confidant a while back who always explains everything so eloquently. In his words, bittersweet is about the full spectrum of life rather than the simultaneous highs and lows of an experience. I always love his stories, letters and the word journeys he takes me on. He has an ability like no other to perfectly string together verses that shape the meanings of my moods or frames of my mind.

In the final discussion of my class, we explored science fiction. The week’s reading by Vint and the references to xenotransplantation had inspired one of my students’ discussions. In her post, she put forth a wonderfully creative exercise for us all to craft a being pieced together from a variety of species that would best represent our true selves.

It was a bit of challenging exercise if you truly delve into the depths of the beings you choose as it takes research, time and honesty to critically assess the best species to use for each of the parts of your mad scientist creation. In today’s fast paced social media driven society, we can float on the surface of the water in our self-awareness and the medium very much distorts the message. It makes me think of a recent article that highlighted the false reflection of our lives through social media. This final exercise was such a fun and thoughtful way to end the term. I have included her description of how to approach the task and shared my own exploration below.

Now is your turn to play a "mad scientist" without actually hurting any animals. Create an alien which contains animal parts to express your personality or style. The parts can be based on actual behavioral/physical traits or popularised ones (like the “heart of a lion” denotes courage). Remember, this type of xenotransplantation is purely fictional, but make sure that the parts you choose relate to your personality and explain why.

I am a collection of beings...

I am an empath, a forgiving person and I will instantly respond to another in need.
  • My creature has the heart of a Rat
I am a soft spoken person and patient to a fault. However, when the need arises to defend my wellbeing or survival I am quick to respond and hold my position strong.  
  • My creature has the jaws Crocodile
I am quite sensitive. Although I may not reveal it on the surface, my feelings can be deeply hurt quite easily. However, I am able to quickly redevelop from an affront.
  • My creature has the skin of a African Spiny Mouse
I am a problem-solver, learn from observation, and I have a mind that is constantly seeking adventure and new experiences.
  • My creature has the brain of a Cephalopod
I am hyper aware of my surroundings and I approach situations from new perspectives.
  • My creature has the eyes of a Dragonfly
I have an acute intuition and I can quickly see through ambiguity.
  • My creature has the stomach of a Bat
I am an explorer, a wanderer and I love to discover the hidden.
  • I have the “feet” of an Adelie Penguin

Saturday, 4 July 2015


As I have mentioned in previous posts, I teach a class called Animals and the Arts through Canisius College's Masters of Anthrozoology program. Every week we discuss new topics and take on some fun and creative assignments over the term. We are now at the midway point of the class and this week we start to delve into advertising. Students in my class each take turns leading discussions and creating thought-provoking questions to get a dialogue going in the group. This week one of the questions put out by our discussion leader was for the rest of the group to find an advertisement that featured other than human animals and talk about the strategies that were used to captivate their audience. It's always fun for me to partake in responding to the questions and I embrace these challenges! I thought it fitting to share my own chosen ad which was the WWF's snapchat conservation campaign.

This ad tied in with our week's reading by Jodi Berland Animal and/as Medium: Symbolic Work in Communicative Regimes and it is also a wonderfully evocative example to kick off the new page Love Wins starting at Beautiful Creatures this month that will feature love across species. In the same fashion that Alphabeasts' featured less popular animals in need of a spotlight and conservation aid Love Wins will do the same as we work our way through the alphabet... 

WWF #LastSelfie Campaign
Now this is why I thought it relevant to share my ad choice from my class's discussion. Within the same vein as Berland’s work, the WWF campaign focusses on the way in which we use technology to connect with each other by powerfully emulating the snapchat platform as a metaphor for species extinction. The soft yet hauntingly repetitive background music that plays has an underscoring sense of urgency while they stream their words to bring to light concepts of short-lived moments with which we can identify like our reflection in a mirror. In the brief trailer, the viewer is led through the dance of these metaphors which equally stir the subconscious feeling of our own momentary presence on this planet. It is very subtle and nuanced, but it plants that seed so that the viewer will bond and internalise that message and thus connect on a deeper level with their ensuing appeal. At the midpoint is where they deliver their tagline that will resonate with our contemporary culture “Don’t let this be my #LastSelfie” framing the image of a primate within a cell phone. This is something that a younger population can definitely identify with, and they are the target audience for this campaign. The WWF is reaching out to a new cohort of advocates for their conservation efforts and have done so in a very potent way. The concept of selfies and transience is one that is prevalent in today’s youth culture and this ad connects those ideas in a way that won’t alienate or critique but rather use the idea as a manner of empowering their audience and creating a call to action.

This ad is a reminder to the strength of our love of wild nature. I was not quite ready to feature the first of the Love Wins animals today and I hope to create this same connection to the species that I will feature in my new series. Until then, I hope you look forward to meeting Mox and Mialy, a faithful duo separated by distance...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Starting this August I will begin to explore the bonds between species on a new page joining Beautiful Creatures. As I work on my writing over the summer, I am looking forward to learning about new species, the bonds they form and understanding the worlds of other than human beings.

A friend recently wrote me with the question of bonds between species and how they differ. He was interested knowing about the difference in the variety of love bonds that other animals express and their experiences of loss and emotional depth. How can we as humans truly have an understanding of another species umwelt and how much projection is there from our own experience upon others?

I have touched on the topic with some of the Alphabeasts narratives and the thread of love has been stitched into a few of the character interactions in Beautiful Creatures. And so, I felt inspired by my friend's questions and thought I would really like to explore this further in my own stories. I look forward to sharing my thoughts, findings and stories with you about love and bonds across species

So, from the one who never fails to make me smile...

We wish you all a great day!

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