Cartographies of force: bugs and media (MS4110.01)

Maia Nichols

This course will focus on visual evidence such as maps, graphic diagrams, drawings, and site records in relation to animals, bugs, pests, and plagues. How were insect plagues managed in various regions? How are bugs portrayed in different kinds of media? Our focus will be on historical instances of plague, natural disaster and political upheaval that overlap with the presence of bugs, and systems of environmental-agricultural expertise. As art historian Jussi Parikka describes: “Space becomes topological, and instead of merely trustworthily guiding and providing reassurance of the coordinates, it infects and seduces.”[1] Swarms, hives, and group dance of species damage livelihood, property, and crops in motion and have inspired technological systems and distributed intelligence from cognitive science to computation and design. How can insect characteristics help us better understand how we communicate? How does drawing, tracing and tracking insect motion and studying insect models help us forge knowledge on non-human agency? We will analyze philosophical and media studies theories on flux, states of becoming, and the wider discourse on insect media as it has inspired, including media from computer “bugs” to today.

[1] Parikka, Insect Media 2010, 100


Learning Outcomes:
Course outcomes:
• Students will develop a personal project by analyzing media related to insects and a particular region, environmental or political crisis, or insect behavior as it relates to technology, and communication to be presented to the class at the end of the term.
• Students will develop critical thinking and communication skills in relation to concepts of motion, knowledge formation, transformation as applicable to a range of humanities fields
• Students will improve their ability to analyze graphic forms of media and learn about media theory as related to computational systems
• Develop familiarity with philosophical and critical theory concepts of motion, stasis, and flux as they relate to power and becoming as well as the interconnection of animal, plant, human and non-human life historically and in the present
• Learn current and historical events around particular case studies of climate crisis, natural disaster or political disruptions created by insects as these relate to media and technology
• Development of individual presentation skills through the preparation and presentation of final projects to the class
• Improve critical thinking and writing skills through written assignments throughout the semester and engagement with peers in discussion on a weekly basis
• Develop of reading, writing and critical thinking skills throughout the semester with regular opportunities for the improvement and feedback leading into and culminating in a final project that demonstrates individual research and writing skills as well as skills in analyzing and considering media as part of the written paper and argument



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students should have taken a media studies or related course prior, please email instructor with a brief paragraph explaining your interest and background to maianichols@bennington.edu
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 1:40PM - 3:30PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 17
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Media Studies , New Courses , Updates
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