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A crawling centipede

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Land Acknowledgement

I acknowledge the land on which this work was created. This land is the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory is the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. The Dish with One Spoon Covenant characterizes our collective responsibility to each other and to the earth - to take only what we need, leave enough for others, and keep the dish clean.

Today, the meeting place of Tkaronto/Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.

Worm's Eye View


[player prompt]

A speculative perspective of a worm: It’s the future. The earth has passed around the sun around 88 888 888 times since the year 2020.

Imagine yourself a researcher—a Terrestrial Isopod (Pillbug), safe underground, exploring the many systems buried just a few feet under your computer. Instead of favouring familiar anthropocentric classification systems, you process information through scent, vibrations, oscillations, and colour patterns. Sometimes, you identify objects through echolocation.

You can switch cursors to navigate other subterranean realms and much can be learned from these alternative perspectives. Perhaps the information of the objects you unearth can be processed and relayed back to other arthropod cousins through dance or multivariate data visualizations.

Your cursor becomes a bird’s clawed foot, a hoofed hind leg, the delicate tarsus of a cricket’s arm, an antique gardening glove or an old relic from the early Holocene… use it to dig into the virtual subterrestrial world of fungi, slime, mould, insects, gas lines, plumbing, cables, and discarded objects.

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A grounded understanding of information begins at the physical and biological level (Bates, 2005). While navigating a realm composed of human-made systems, consider the notion that the human microbiome hosts a variable ratio of 1:1 between human cells and other microorganisms like bacteria and fungi (Sender et al., 2016).

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The human-environment system is articulated by various interconnected relationships. The notion of autonomy as an essential process in the self-creation of living systems is coupled with an understanding that humans inhabit a symbiotic system looping within other lifeworlds (Haraway, 2008).

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An infinite variety of non-communicating and reciprocally exclusive animal worlds jointly compose the earth (Uexküll, 2010). The natural systems realm moves beyond an anthropocentric vantage point by focusing on the frequencies of other-than human beings (Little Bear, 2016).

A broken smartphone with a shattered flickering screen

e-waste was a major external consequence of the digital revolution.

In 2019, a record 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated worldwide. 17.4% of this e-waste was collected and recycled. As time passed, higher consumption rates of electric equipment, devices with short life cycles, and designs with few options for repair propelled the electronic waste stream (United Nations Institute for Training and Research, 2020).

Broken cell phone
A blue surgical mask folded as if discarded

In 2020, an abundant new material appeared floating in the water, hanging from bicycles and trees, sitting on car dashboards, and lying at the side of the road.

Discarded surgical mask
A cross section of a blueish grey conductor with an orange center. Copper and aluminum wires form a lattice. Inside, the electric energy is shifting in rainbow streaks that cast violet light.

Cyberspace influenced how humans engaged and interacted with the environment by connecting computers, digital media, animals, and things as a living system (Colebrook 2014).

Cross-section of a conductor
A grey book with yellowing pages and green stains on the cover. The title says 'Diary'. The book is upside down.

A physical record containing data about an arboretum.

Place-based practices and the documents they produced reflected what was valued about individual organisms and also exposed shifting values over time(Loukissas, 2016).

Mouldy diary
A bright lime green microchip with golden connectors. In the middle there's a black processor unit that's shimmering with silver energy

Decoupling present and future needs:

Human choices in the environment were dispersed in space and time.

Each action made a small opaque contribution to the future of the planet.

A pack of margarine in a white wrapper, with yellow dye being dispersed on top

Structures of feeling were rendered and re-organized by the soft and networked architectures of online media (Papacharissi, 2016).

Package of margarine
A well-worn paint brush with a blue wooden handle and brown bristles

An object used to make slow work. The marks from this tool were dispersed throughout the dig site, a vacuum for new grammars of belonging (Steinhoff, 2017).

A burning $1000000 Hell Bank Note (joss paper) with the portrait of the Jade Emperor surrounded by rice plants depicted in the middle

Emerging rituals prompted reciprocity:

A selection of mundane and sacred objects whose values were determined by more-than human beings, were burned for ancestors such as fish, rodents, and small birds. These ceremonies were a means of connecting to familiar and distant ancestors as well as to the land.

Burning $1000000 Hell Bank note
Three quarters of a green red apple, rotten to the core

Humans were not the only creatures who lived on the edge of the wild. To some extent, every hive-building, nest-making, lodge-building and burrow-digging creature lived a liminal existence. Yet none of them lived their entire life in the burrow, nest, or hive (Bringhurst & Zwicky, 2018).

Rotten apple
A yellow snow apple speckled with brown, wrapped in white styrofoam mesh to prevent bruising

A holistic and multidimensional understanding of the breadth and depth of an animal’s engagement in labour was eventually identified as a type of subsistence work that kept the planet alive (Blattner et al., 2020).

Snow apple
Two bananas are lying next to each other, their color is shifting from green to yellow to red

Consciousness and perception among animal species evolved throughout hundreds of millennia. Human sentience was one of numerous forms of animal awareness (Shepard, 1997).

Two bananas
A square abstract painting rendered in blue, beige and orange watercolor

Representations of the wild continued to proliferate in online networked spaces, even as the buzzing and chattering offline grew conspicuously silent.

Small watercolor painting
A smooth weathered fragment of concrete with pale blue glaze on one side

A disenchantment of technology and a re-enchantment of non-human nature generated a paradigm shift. Ecocentric ethics counteracted fragmented experiences of the wild often displayed through cell phones and computers (Maxwell & Miller, 2012).

Rough fragment of glazed concrete
A round piece of cream colored concrete speckled with blue and brown. The fragment still retains a bit of teal glaze.

A decolonial shift from viewing the land as private property, towards an understanding of the land as home to nonhuman neighbours, prompted the realization that the land was not a commodity but rather a gift and a library (Kimmerer, 2013).

Smooth glazed rock
A large irregular slab of broken grey concrete

A gift grew inherently as it was shared. This notion was difficult to grasp in societies whose values were derived from the ownership of private property (Kimmerer, 2013).

Broken piece of concrete
A spinach sprouts with two yellowing leaves and the root system exposed

The earth was situated as a moral reference point. The act of thinking like an ecosystem brought individuals closer to disobedience from both cultural and biological late-capitalist paradigms (Bringhurst & Zwicky, 2018)

Spinach sprout
A rotting purple Chinese eggplant

The 2020 document, A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy, characterized feminist reproductive labour as skilled work that sustained both human society and nature itself. This regenerative economy was guided by community governance and ownership of work and resources (United Frontline Table 2020).

Eggplant with grey mold
A long greyish brown centipede, wiggling all of its appendages

A common disregard towards other-than-human species was offset by a relational set of discourses and practices around empathy, sympathy, and fellow feeling between people, environments, and objects (Hobart & Kneese, 2020).

A wilted brown leaf with signs of rotting and being eaten by bugs. The color shifts between from brown to red

The principles of cooperation and responsibility were extended to the animals, earth, forests, and seas. No commons would be possible without the refusal to base life and reproduction on the suffering of others (Federici, 2012).

Bug-eaten leaf
An elongated blue rock with yellow specks

Although users of the web were less aware of the physical space of the internet (brick, mortar, metal trailers, electronics containing magnetic and optical media, and fiber infrastructure), human conditions were apparent through the mediation of political, social and economic access points (Noble, 2018).

Blue meteorite
A bunch of white insect eggs on circular yellow background, some dark brown larvae are hatching from these eggs

Wild animal engagement through self-controlled, individual, and collective forms of subsistence and care work eventually constituted a form of social reproductive labour called ‘Ecosocial Reproduction’ (Blattner et al., 2020).

Hatching insect eggs
An orange caterpillar

Bringing animals into the political sphere required attentiveness to nonhuman animal languages, translating what had been gleaned to their representative structures. Humans were encouraged to listen and to exercise care (Meijer, 2019).

Orange caterpillar
A white silkworm

Each year, 70 billion animals contributed to a worldwide economy through actions such as producing sustenance and biodegrading waste. These were critical tasks for healthy functioning ecosystems. A posthuman framework demanded social recognition of historically unpaid or underpaid reproductive labour. This included the work of animals such as worms, fish, insect pollinators, vultures and parasites.

White silkworm
An inside view of a white silk moth's coccoon suspended by branches

Care as an affective and connective tissue between an inner self and an outer world offered the visceral, material, and emotional heft toward the preservation of localities such as: selves, communities, and more-than-human social worlds (Hobart & Kneese, 2020).

Silk moth cocoon
A set of four green insect eggs. The two on the left are elongated, and the other two are round

Forest trees were interconnected through subterranean fungal networks, a web of survival and reciprocity that benefited the trees, fungus, soil and extended to other earthly beings (Kimmerer, 2013).

Cluster of beetle eggs
A rounded blue-grey rock

Influenced by technical advancements, a human’s temporal sense overlooked the intrinsic deep-timescales of the earth. As conceptions of time sped up, so too did the decomposition of earth’s capital such as the layers of gasses in the atmosphere (Bjornerud, 2020).

Blue-grey rock
A black beetle with long antennae

Nationalism was obscured by winds and waters that knew no boundaries. Gratitude was relocated when speaking to the natural world as a member of the democracy of species. (Kimmerer, 2013).

Matte black beetle
A close-up of a white larva

Although they were often close by, earthworms lived independently, and did not cohabit with humans. As human activity influenced the habitat and lives of worms, new multispecies policies reinforced a respect for the interests of worms on how the earth was used.

White larva
Three white pulsing larvae in a cluster, two of the overlapping each other

Multispecies neighbourhoods generated intimacy but also sanctioned respectful distances between animal communities. For instance, earthworms were understood as both neighbours and sovereign communities (Meijer, 2019).

Cluster of larva
An irregularly shaped meteorite streaked with black, brown, orange and red. At the core there is a flickering flame that can be peeked through holes.

Using the grammar of the earth rocks evolved from nouns to verbs, an evidence of processes. The growth of a mountain belt, a volcanic eruption--rocks were witnesses to events that unfolded over long stretches of time (Bjornerud, 2020).

Red meteorite
A brown moth with a striped thorax. It's left wing is partially ripped off

Animals were often so obscured under the verbiage of power and capital that they briefly disappeared from view (Blattner et al., 2020).

Brown moth
A beige moth with elongated thorax and dark dots on its wings

The grammar of animacy:

In the wild, humans became audience to conversations in languages of other frequencies (Little Bear, 2016).

Beige moth
A grey moth with eye markings, dark outlines on its wings and a flared tail. The top wings' tips are shimmering with green.

The world was structured as a neighbourhood of nonhuman residents, a communion of subjects. Métis anthropologist Zoe Todd affirmed that the places humans inhabited and the experience of moving through time were perpetually shaped by more than human beings (Todd, 2018).

Grey moth
A furry light-yellow moth

An Indigenous framework positioned habitats and ecosystems as societies with inter-species treaties and agreements through ethical structures of ecosystems. Mohawk and Anishnaabe researcher Vanessa Watts described a practice of reciprocity by identifying non-human beings as active members of society (Watts, 2013).

Furry white moth
A fat white moth

The Animal Computer Interaction (ACI) manifesto displayed a confidence in techno-utopianism. The manifesto defined ACI’s benefit to both animals and humans as the use of technology that enabled animals to work and communicate with humans (Mancini, 2011).

Furry white moth
Two oval blue-green mussel shells moving towards each other, then separating. The inside of the shells is opalescent pink

The notion of becoming an integral part of nature rather than merely an observer of nature was cited from various forms of Indigenous traditions and pedagogy. Nonhuman animals and human-environmental relations were embedded in every aspect of life. Practicing reciprocity, care, and tenderness towards more-than-human beings was a method of centering these nonhuman relations (Todd, 2018).

Mussel shells
A crawling white aquatic  slug with black horns, grey spots and black tail.

Animals of all kinds engaged in media technologies through multifaceted structures of animal-networks. The ecological effects associated with online infrastructures ultimately resulted in a digital embodiment of animals that obscured alternative modes of relationality towards the physical wild (Berland, 2019).

Aquatic slug
A light yellow rock with specks of blue and brown

Human-environmental relations were embedded in every aspect of life. The wisdom of other animals was apparent in the way that they lived. Animals taught by example. “They’ve been on the earth far longer than we have been, and have had time to figure things out. They live both above and below ground, joining Skyworld to the earth” (Kimmerer, 2013).

Yellow rock
A white butterfly with black wingtips

Learning the pronouns of the living world:

Adopting a grammar of animacy led to new methods of survival in the world (Kimmerer, 2013).

White butterfly
A white butterfly with dark tips and black dots on its upper wings

In Native ways of knowing, humans were often referred to as ‘the younger brothers of Creation’ as they had the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn. Teachers among the other species offered guidance (Kimmerer, 2013).

White buttefly with dark spots
A light green leaf with a pulsing green caterpillar eating the centre

No species of placental mammal lived more than a few million years. Coming to the realization that the planet too was mortal, humans planned to maximize their future. Taking a broader vernacular view that included the nieces and nephews of their descendants, they began thinking not just as individuals--or even as a species (Bringhurst & Zwicky, 2018).

Caterpillar eating a leaf

Choose your realm:

User Guide

  1. Scratch the surface of the dig site with your cursor to begin digging a hole. As you dig, you will encounter natural, immaterial, and human-made phenomena.

  2. **Tip while digging**. In some instances, you may find it helpful to move the cursor more, clockwise and counterclockwise over an entity to remove their surface layer.

  3. A yellow halo will appear to indicate that an entity is fully uncovered. Click on the entity to unearth it, it will be transported to the edge of the dig site.

  4. Excavate all embedded entities from the current layer to move on to the new layer underneath.

  5. All entities within the hole contain additional embedded text that can be accessed once they are unearthed.

  6. Switch between the three alternative realms by clicking on elements from the “choose your realm” section at the bottom left corner. Your progress on the current realm will be saved.

  7. Proceed to the next realm once all entities in the current one are unearthed.Continue the process as long as you like.

  8. Refreshing the browser will reset the process.


Concept, writing and images:

Sara Maston

UX and development:

Olga Filiushkina

Thank you Virtual Grounds

Thank you to the Digital Justice Lab and Trinity Square Video for supporting this project.

Thank you to my human and other-than-human mentors, peers, and collaborators.