Wednesday, March 9, 2011

dialectics of domestication

An interesting Radiolab piece with evolutionary biologist Brian Hare on Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev's celebrated silver fox domestication experiment. Belyaev's foxes have gotten a fair amount of play in popular media - as a part of the origin story of dogs. (Here's something I'm starting to think about: the canids who make dogs dogs, so that dogs can, as the saying goes, make us human. Another example would be the captive wolves, human-raised or not, who stand in as the foil of dogs in studies of social cognition, for example these by Brian Hare.)

What I found most striking about the RadioLab version of the story: the cartoonish, disturbingly repetitive gun shot sound effects that point up the role of culling in selective breeding (plus, these foxes were raised for fur in the first place...)

Related posts on free-range dogs and undesireable dogs.

Image courtesy of

Note: I tried posting an earlier version of this on Village Dog, my Tumblr experiment, but had some technical difficulties. It seems to fit better here, anyway.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

this week in posthumanism: elfoid v. yaxley

i. humanoid phone

The Elfoid phone is a miniature version of the Telenoid R1 robot developed last year by a research team led by Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro. The current prototype measures 20 centimeters (8 in) long, is covered in a soft fleshy urethane skin, and has the same genderless and ageless appearance as the Telenoid. The control buttons are embedded in the chest, which glows green when the Elfoid is in use...
Equipped with a camera and motion-capture system, the Elfoid phone will be able to watch the user's face and transmit motion data to another Elfoid phone, which can then reproduce the face and head movements in real-time.

(via Pink Tentacle)

ii. cable company "live chat analyst"

(click image for larger version)