by Michael Warner
Virtual Menageries puts us back in time amongst the collective elites. Berland forms a cohesive genealogy of the “menagerie” to encourage, challenge, and deconstruct our modern perception of non-human animals and their relationship to human meaning and existence. Virtual Menageries looks through the lens of mediation to draw affective and emotional weight to animals as symbolic messengers in the digital era. From the giraffe, to the beaver, virtual art, digital communications, cats, birds and music Berland maps out how animals have become not only the mediators that bridge worlds together for good, but also as the trafficked subjects of terror: tools made to control, methods for silencing, opportunities to proliferate a message, and catalysts in profiteering.
The book begins with a question that led to a series of other questions: “Why are there so many cats on the internet?” (Pg. 1) Which then led to thoughts about the roles of animals as symbols and figures in contexts. “How do animals help manage our perception of the Anthropocene? How do they disrupt our own relationship with digital technologies if they are so abundantly apart of them? If they are mediating in new ways, what content are they mediating, and in what context?” (Pg. 1) These are all questions that threw the book and Berland’s project into fruition.
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