viral ecologies : technologic hypnotism and the zombie ants 

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Ę͔̯᷊̜̞̫̳͈᷊̠̞̥̭͙ͦ́ͦ̃ͦͦͯͦ᷉́̈́ͦͦͦ̕͡x̲̞̗̙͍̬͙̙̞͎ͦ͒ͨ᷅ͦͦͦͯ͒̇ͦͪͦ̂͗ͦ᷁ͪͦͥ͟ṱ̶̵̷̡̛̞͍̞̓ͦ͒ͦ̋̽ͦͬ̏ͦ̀ͦͪ̒ͦ͆ͦ͌ͦ̂͢͢e̸̡̬̥̗̞͖᷂̞̭᷿ͦ̋ͦͦ̅ͦͯͩͭͦ̓̊ͦͣ̌ͦ᷈ͦ̕͡r͎̞ͦͣ́̔ͦ᷇ͦ͠͏̷̮̞᷊̯ͭͦͯͤͦ̏ͪͣͦ̀̈́ͦ̽ͦ᷅n̵̴̴̢̨̞᷂̞̺̱̪̞̠ͦ͑ͦ᷈ͤͦ̀ͭͦ̀ͯͦͦͦ͊ͦ̚͜ǎ̴̤̞̭̝̠̦̞͇̰̱ͦ͂ͦ᷁̄ͦͫͦ᷈ͧͦ̇ͦ͒͗ͦͦͅͅl̵̡̡̛᷿͙̞̪̬͖̞͖̙ͦ̑ͦ᷄ͦͦ̅̐ͦ͐̾ͦͧͦͫ͗ͦͅ ṁ̞̰̰̯̘̲̞᷂̹͔͇ͦ͋̅͋ͦ̈́ͦ᷇ͦ̇᷾ͦ̋̀ͦͦ̾ͦ͜ơ̢̰̞̤̺̝̞͎͉̍ͦ̆̋ͦ̒ͦͦͤ͛ͦ̅̈́ͦͭ͗ͦͫ̄ͦ͝r̵̴̴̺̞͓͈̖̞̗̔ͦ̉̏ͦ̆ͦ̄ͦ᷆̔ͣͦͦ̐̓ͦ̽ͦ̚͏p̻̺̞̮̣̮̞̫ͦ᷾ͦ᷀ͦͦ̎̋ͦ᷉ͦ͒ͧͦ̒͋ͦ̎̆ͦ̐͡͠h̢͎͉̭̞̬̩᷊̹̞̱̰̭ͦͦ͛ͮͦͭ͑ͦ᷇̑̿ͦͦ͗ͦ̒͛ͦͨͨͥͦ̀ͦ͜͞ȏ̵̤̞͔̹̞ͦ̀ͭͦ̍̔ͦ̉ͦ͗̽ͦ̽͂ͦͥͦ̍͐ͯͦͬ̕͠l̷̛̞̞̦̩̭̥᷂̞͍ͦ᷃̿ͦ᷆ͦͦͥ̀ͦͮ͂ͦ᷅ͦ̑̿ͦ᷇͝ơ̷̧̧͍̞̩̼̻̮̜̞̮̎ͦͦ̈ͦ̈́̀ͦͦͦ̐ͦͦ᷆ͦ͟͠͡ģ͍̗̞͓ͦͦ̀ͧͦ᷃͢͏̜̯̞̼ͦ̓ͭ̈ͦ̃᷈ͦ̿ͦ᷾̽ͦ̍y͇̼̞ͦ̑ͯ̿ͦͦ᷄̒͘͏̴̵̡̣̞̟̜ͦ͐ͫͦͥͪͦͦ͐̃ͦ o̫̞ͦ̏᷾ͦ͏̸̨̨̞̯̪̞ͦ͊ͤ̉ͦͮ̉ͦͦͨͦ̾͌ͦ̌̕͟f̶̪᷿̞᷿̫̫̞̘̖̹̞̼᷁ͦ͒ͦ͛ͦ͌ͦͦ͗ͦͦͮͫͦ̓͜͡ m̨̛̱̳̤̞͔̱̝͔̱̞̯̟ͦ᷅ͦͦ̓̉ͦͦͭ͆́ͦͦ̋̒̆ͦy̠͕͈̞̳̤͇̜̥᷂̞̩̺᷁ͦ̋ͦͦͦ̃̔ͦ᷈ͦ͊ͦͦͭͦ͂̕r̛̳̞̞̟͕̞᷊̗ͦ᷇᷇ͦͦͦ̌͊͒ͦ᷁ͦͯ̿ͦ̿ͦ̽͂ͦ͟͞m̡̺͉̞̩̖͉̞̪̘᷊ͤͦ̓ͦ̎ͦ̃ͦ͛̐ͦ̓̊ͦ̂ͦͫͦ̚ͅê̴͕̞̗᷂̱̞̬ͦ̇᷈᷈ͦͦ̏ͦ̌᷇̄ͦͮ̀ͦͦ͜͏̨̺͉ͦcͦ͘͏̦̞᷊̟ͦ̀̈́ͦ᷇ͦͅ͏̣̰̺̲͔̞ͦͦ̾ͣͦ͊᷁̆ͦͫǫ̳̱̞̞̞͇᷆ͦ᷾ͦ̾ͦ͒̉ͦ̑̈ͦ̎͗᷀ͦͮͦ̿̆̆ͦͭ͠p̶̷̛̲̺̞ͦ̿ͦͪͦ᷾ͦ͆̿̈ͦ͝͏̮̞̎ͦ᷉ͯͦ᷅́̄ͦ́ḩ̸̨̖͔̞̲̮̞̦ͦ͋ͦͦͫͦͭͦͣ̑ͤͦͦͥͦ͑ͦͦ᷇͝ͅi̸̡̛̞̟̞͉͔̞̩̜ͪͦ̾ͦ̑ͦ̉ͦ᷇̆̒ͦ͗ͦ̽᷅ͦ́͑ͦͯ̋ͦ͒̑᷈ͦ͜l̵̷̻̣̞͓̙͓̞̭̪ͩͦ᷁ͦ̈́̌ͦͦ͆᷄ͦͦ̋ͦ̌᷾̇ͦ͘͜ọ̞̦̹͎̳̦̗̞̰̬ͦ͆ͦ̎̇ͦ͒ͦ͊ͦͬͦ᷃ͦͦ̂ͦ͜͢͠ų̙͕͖̞̖̤ͦͮͦ͒ͦ͏̰ͦͦ͢͟͏̖̞̐ͦ̄͊ͦ͗ͦ̕̕͠s̷̴̸̛͔̮̞͍͓̞᷿̮ͦ̇ͦͦ̏ͦͭ̆ͦ͗̍ͦͦͧͨͦ͡͠͞ ǫ̸̼̪͙͇̮̞͔͔͎͈᷂̞̟̺̮ͦͦͩͦͦ᷉ͦ᷃ͦͦ̍͋ͦ͝ŗ̸̴̸̞̻͎͓̞͉̊ͦ᷈̅͒ͦ̂́ͦ̾̓ͦ̆ͦ̓̋̅ͦͦͤͦg᷊͎᷊̞̠̳͙̖᷿̗̞̹ͦͦ̆ͦͦ̑̓ͦ͌ͦ̇ͦ̓ͨ̆ͦ͟͢ͅa̸̡̲̞͚̼̞᷈ͦ̉̌ͨͦͦ᷀ͦ᷇ͦ᷉̅̆ͦͩ͑ͦͥ̍͋ͦ᷄͢n̷̸̶̡͙̳᷊̞̰᷂̘̞ͦͦͨͦ᷃ͦ᷇ͦͥͪͦ᷇͑ͦͮͦ͒͘͞s̶᷊͕̞͎̦̥̞̺͈̽ͦ̇᷁ͦͦ͌͑ͦͣ᷃ͦ᷇᷉ͦͦͮͦͯ͟͜ 
inverted tentacular organ 
 
 
 
 
This is all about zombie ants and their resemblance to mediatized-hypnotized human beings of today. 
 
viral ecologies : technologic hypnotism and the zombie ants is the first chapter of an interdisciplinary project of mine focused on the experimentation with different media to visually explore the true omniscient phenomena of viral ecologies, both in the algorithm as in the organism.  
 
The idea of the project started in summer 2014 as part of a workshop I designed and imparted at Universidad Nacional in Bogotá about similarities between the behaviour of certain tropical ants and the manifestation of self-organization and decentralization in human-made technology. 
 
Similar and strange, transcendental phenomena takes place during the generation of affection-infection-imitation-contagion cycles both in wetware as in software, in other words in the life of the living (natural) and the undead (artificial). More on this intriguing matter will be revealed during this residency.  
 
Technically, the intention of this digital residency is to bend/mosh/glitch both data and fungal specimens by means of a, let's say at this instance, universal manifestation of decomposition that can affect everything. I will try to incubate a parasitical fungus which can also infect a computer program which is constantly trying to allocate memory in order to render images. A glitch presence infecting an image, affecting the system. 
 
There is no benevolence, there is no malice. Just pixel clusters drifting and deteriorating, transforming the host into ̠̤͇̣o҉̻ 
littleMELOVING_eLectR0nix
The human mind has seen in ants something oddly similar to us, yet bizarre and irrational to our comprehension. If we start by defining their physical appearance, we immediately realize how strange they are to our perception: exterior exoskeleton, six legs, two antennae, razor-sharp mandibles, diverse glands to produce pheromones and a painful sting (in some but not all species) which can produce a 24-hour fever effect in humans. This is the case of Paraponera clavata, the infamous bullet ant. The bullet ant is the star of the sci-fi film Empire of the ants, a b-horror movie from the late seventies depicting giant killing ants which mutated from radioactive waste. In fact, the film is a slandered version of the original short story by H.G. Wells, which demonstrates the resource of ants as aliens in science fiction. [1] The plot of the original story by H.G. Wells narrates the conflicts of an English colony trying to control an ant plague in a remote location of the Brazilian rainforests, a metaphor of the historical events that actually occurred during the imperial invation in America and Africa. [2] 
 
Yet, more bewildering is the fact that the bullet ant is the host of a parasitic fungus which penetrates her exoskeleton, infects her brain and takes control of her movements...turning the giant ant of the Amazon into a zombie ant. 
 
 
 
"Attack of the ancient 'zombie' ants 
Fossil leaf bears the telltale scars of insects infected by parasitic fungus 
 
Researchers claim to have found the first evidence of 'zombie' ants in the fossil record. They have matched peculiar cuts on a 48-million-year-old fossil leaf with the 'death bites' made by modern ants infected by a fungal parasite. 
 
The leaf was part of a group of fossilized leaves and plants unearthed recently from the Messel Pit in Germany's Rhine Rift Valley — an area famous for the discovery, in 2009, of Ida, a well-preserved primate fossil touted as a human ancestor. Initially, the fossil plants and leaves did not raise much interest and they were stored for years at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. 
 
In Thailand, Hughes had seen leaf bites produced by carpenter ants, Camponotus leonardi, that were infected and manipulated by a fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. In this parasite–host relationship, the fungus manipulates the insect's behaviour so that the ant bites into the underside of a leaf. The conditions under the carefully chosen leaves are optimal for fungal growth. After the ant bites into a leaf vein, the fungus grows rapidly, covering the ant in a dense mat of filamentous fungal hyphae. The fungus then releases spores to infect more ants. 
 
'It is not normal ant behaviour to bite into the leaf vein because it has no real nutritional value to the ant and can in fact be toxic in some plant species,' Hughes states. Furthermore, Paul Kenrick, head of research at the Natural History Museum's Department of Palaeontology in London says: 'This find is telling us something significant about the evolution of the interactions between organisms and their dependencies. If the marks are those left by dying ants, the complex ant–parasite relationship must have evolved at least 48 million years ago'." [3] 
 
(a) A nearly complete fossil leaf (SM.B.Me 10167) from Messel with 29 ant death-grip scars centred on 11 secondary veins (rectangular templates). (b) Overlay drawing and enlargement of three of four scars of (a) showing shape, callused periphery and relationship of secondary to tertiary venation. (c) Enlargement of upper–right scar in (b), showing dumbbell-shaped hole and central concavity of callused tissue. (d) Additional but narrower scar with less pronounced dumbbell. (e) Detail of a scar from the fossil leaf at (a), showing unaffected leaf tissue (L); callused region showing hyperplasic cell files radiating from central cut (H); texturally distinct fungal infection of callused tissue seen on the surface (S); and central cut area (C). (f) Modern plant specimen [4], showing a mature O. unilateralis stroma issuing from the head of a dead C. leonardi whose mandibles are attached to the lower surface of a major vein. (g) Modern ant death-grip scar from a primary–secondary vein axil, showing the medial vein, dumbbell-shaped hole, callus rim and hyphae from later fungal colonization. (h) Overlay drawing of a second, modern leaf specimen with a death-grip scar at secondary and tertiary axil; other holes may be aborted mandibular punctures. (i) Photo showing same features in (h). Scale bars: solid bar, 1 cm; stippled bar,1 mm; slashed bar, 0.1 mm. 
 
Specimen Z 
Zombie carpenter ant, genus Camponotus, photographed by the artist clinching onto an aluminum strip used to label tree species in the Yasuni rain forest of Ecuador, 2013. 
 
 
 
 
 
Zombie ants are a natural phenomenon. They do exist. But the term has few to nothing in common with zombies in film or literature. The behaviour of infected zombie ants does not resemble the movements or intentions of those post-apocalyptic post-human creatures we love and fear. A zombie ant does not bite another ant.  
 
Yet what the cultural phenomenon of zombies really has in common with the natural zombie ants is the virality in the relationship between host-parasite, i.e., the contagious nature. Indeed, the portray of zombies in general demonstrates their existence and propagation is to an extent symbiotically dependent on normal/rational humans to become infected, to get bitten; in other words, the zombified brain needs a healthy brain, a host. They do also share -perhaps, if your imagination allows it for a moment- a folkloric resemblance to the zombii of Haitian Vodoo. A zombie ant is actually enslaved, like the zombii in Haitian voodo. The parasite Ophiocordyceps unilateralis physiochemically controls the ant's brain and manipulates her movements to climb and bite leaf stems (the leaves do not get infected, but in this way the parasite bursts from the head of the ant and sends a rain of spores from above which infects other ants passing by). 
 
Recent studies reveal that in the behavior of carpenter ants (one of the most common infected ants, at least in the rain forests of Ecuador), certain social traits are not completely genetically inherited, but rather shaped by a combination of epigenetic variations in specific protein chains in the ant's brain and environmental influences, that is, what the ant experiences during her early life stages. The division of labor in ants has proven to be crucial to their social superiority and organization among social species on the planet. That's how for instance major ants assume the role of soldiers doing the dirty work in the colony, while the minor ants do more sophisticated work like caring for the young, feeding the queen and organizing the nest architecture. Though the most interesting mention of the research of Dr. Berger lab regards the fact that certain epigenetic protein chains in the ant's brain are also present in the brain of larger decision-making mammals including humans, namely a gene called CBP. [9]  
 
Thus, I propose there exists indeed an uncanny parallel in terms of decision making and social behavior between humans and ants, as Dr. Berger further manifests: "from mammalian studies, it's clear this is an important protein involved in learning and memory. The finding that CBP plays a key role in establishing distinct social behaviors in ants strongly suggests that the discoveries made in ants may have broad implications for understanding social organization." [10] 
 
 
"Berger observes that all of the genes known to be major epigenetic regulators in mammals are also present in ants, which makes ants 'a fantastic model for studying principles of epigenetic modulation of behavior and even longevity [...] ants also provide an extraordinary opportunity to explore and understand the epigenetic processes that come into play to establish behavioral patterns at a young age. This is a topic of increasing research interest in humans, owing to the growing prevalence of behavioral disorders and diseases and the appreciation that diet may influence behavior. One important gene implicated in the ant study is CBP, which is an epigenetic writer enzyme that alters chromatin by adding acetyl groups to histones. CBP had already been implicated as a critical enzyme facilitating learning and memory in mice and is mutated in certain human cognitive disorders, notably Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome. Hence, the team's findings suggest that CBP-mediated histone acetylation may also facilitate complex social interactions found in vertebrate species." [11] 
 
 
This is my point of departure to link the Haitian zombii phenomenon with the zombie ant, aka Ophiocordyceps unilateralis' enslaved ants. We travel between the two brains and find a chemically common denominator: the CBP gene in ants is susceptible to acetyl compounds, and exposing it to more or less of it will define what kind of work the ant will do in her life: working on the fields or in the security of nest; now, in the ceremony of zombification the bokor (the voodo priest), administers Datura, an hallucinogenic tropical plant which affects a chemical known as acetylcholine in the human brain, thus allowing him to control/influence the volition of the recently turned zombii, with the sole purpose of enslaving the subject to work on the fields for his new masters. 
 
 
 
"Administration of datura serves another purpose for the bokor: it makes the victim delirious and compliant. It turns out that scopolamine and hyoscyamine are both powerful hallucinogenic substances that work by manipulating a chemical called acetylcholine. Datura leaves the victim in an altered state of mind that makes her easily coercible. After this process . . . voilà! The bokor has a zombi" [12] 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How far can we go without technology? 
How do you find the nearest route to the d᷿͓᷿᷿᷿᷇̏r᷿᷿̩᷿᷿̄ͧǔ᷿᷿͍᷿᷿͟g᷿̣᷿᷿͎᷿͒ ̸̧᷈ͬ̔᷈ s̷̷᷇t̷̷̘o̷̷̷͚ͥr̷̷ͦe̷̷͒? 
How do we find the nearest path to our food without Google, GPS, without internet? 
Do you still know how to use a compass? 
 
 
 
 
 

 We want your data 

"A zombie cookie is any HTTP cookie that is recreated after deletion from backups stored outside the web browser's dedicated cookie storage. It may be stored online or directly onto the visitor's computer, in a breach of browser security. This makes them very difficult to remove. Zombie cookies allow the web traffic tracking companies to retrieve information such as previous unique user ID and continue tracking personal browsing habits. When the user ID is stored outside of a single browser's cookie storage, such as in a header injected by the network into HTTP requests, zombie cookies can track users across browsers on the same machine. The phrase |ZOMBIE COOKIES| was created by Attorney Joseph H. Malley who initiated the Super-Cookie Class Actions. The etiology of the phrase was derived from his prior research into Apple's third-party iPhone applications that had been criticized as being zombie-like applications in 2008 and a report in 2009 about |super-cookies| that re-spawned when terminated. Attorney Malley envisioned a cookie that seemed to come back from the |dead|" [4] 
 
 
 
 
 
If you're going to write an insanely fast, headless browser,  
how can you not call it Zombie
 
 
 
The following 2 videos were a product of a 10 day progressive time lapsed encoding of the fungus garden of my colony of Acromyrmex octospinosus, using Antonio Roberts' python scripts which exploit avconv encoding capabilities, on a Raspberry Pi 2. 
 
(̞Z͗o̕Ơo̗)᷉mͧb͠i̍e̶ A̸͓ͅṉ᷉̉t̴̃̏ 
This ant of the genus Dolichoderus has been infected by an unknown parasite. It was long dead, its exoskeleton dry and decaying when I took the photo. Original photo taken by the artist in the Yasuni rain forest of Ecuador, 2013. 
 
 
 
The Bounty Hunter 
Not a zombie, but this ant of the species Gigantiops destructor is a solitary hunter and they move very fast, jump over obstacles and are incredibly agile over the rigorous terrain of the tropical rain forest. This picture was digitally possessed with this online tool (http://airtightinteractive.com/demos/js/ruttetra). Original photo taken by the artist in the Yasuni rain forest of Ecuador, 2013. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Smartphone walking accidents in Japan drive new safety campaigns 
 
"According to statistics from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, there were eleven reported incidents of people falling off train platforms in 2010, and the numbers rose to 18 in 2011. But those are just the ones reported and does not include those who fell from platforms but pulled themselves up without reporting it to the authorities (which happens more often than you imagine). University of Tsukuba professor Katsumi Tokuda conducted a survey among commuting university students from Tokyo and Osaka and found that more than 60% of them had been bumped into or almost bumped into by people who were smartphone walking" [6] 
 
 
"The now-ubiquitous animated GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) image has been revived on the internet 25 years after it was first designed by Compuserve [...] moving GIFs express newness through the medium of the explicitly old. Seen as the quaint markers of a pre-Flash world wide web, GIFs’ ongoing renaissance over the past half-decade places them in an online context that marks their vintage aesthetic difference as a notable appeal rather than an intrusive deficiency GIFs have become so pervasive to have merited categorization, as well as explanation and analysis. [...] there is even a relatively significant contingent of people creating and theorizing GIFs as art, which indicates that the form has finally arrived — perhaps to a point where many begin to wish it had never started to come into the zeitgeist at all.  
 
The first GIFs had no pretense to being art. The first popular set of GIFs were moving images that signed (quite literally) that a site was under construction. “Under Construction” GIFs signaled, either literally or visually, a single message: http://www.cs.utah.edu/~gk/atwork/  
 
Whatever linguistic message is communicated, contemporary GIFs all emphasize a kind of aesthetic (and thus affective) dynamism by the sheer fact of their mobile quality. While glitch GIFs don’t communicate much narrative content, through their endlessly interrupted movements they underline the irrationality implicit in any endlessly looping image." [7] 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ZeGaul 
The species of this ant is unknown to me. The white fungal sheath coating her body is of mysterious origin. It was long dead when I found her. Original photo taken by the artist in the Yasuni rain forest of Ecuador, 2013. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
* Soundscape is "Incantantations for Tape" by Otto Luening & Vladimir Ussachevsky. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6PTUPZxTS0 
 
 
 
[1] Charlotte Sleigh, “Empire of the ants: H.G. Wells and tropical entomology,” Science as Culture, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2001): 33-71. 
[2] H. G. Wells, Empire Of The Ants (London: The Strand Magazine, 1905). 
[3] As reported by Kate Larkin (Originally published online the 17th of August 2010 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2010.415). Original research by David P. Hughes, Torsten Wappler, Conrad C. Labandeira. Published the 12th of January 2011. DOI: 10.1098 
[5] Sarah Juliet Lauro & Karen Embry, "A Zombie Manifesto," boundary 2 35:1 (2008). DOI 10.1215/01903659-2007-027 
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie_cookie 
[6] http://japandailypress.com/smartphone-walking-accidents-in-japan-drive-new-safety-campaigns-1333692/ 
[7] Jane Hu, "GIF Typologies and the Heritage of the Moving Image", http://hyperallergic.com/57585/gif-typologies-and-the-heritage-of-the-moving-image/ 
[8] http://www.hugheslab.com/projects/ 
[9] Epigenetic (re)programming of caste-specific behavior in the ant Camponotus floridanus 
Daniel F. Simola, Riley J. Graham, Cristina M. Brady, Brittany L. Enzmann, Claude Desplan, Anandasankar Ray, Laurence J. Zwiebel, Roberto Bonasio, Danny Reinberg, Jürgen Liebig, and Shelley L. Berger 
Science 1 January 2016: 351 (6268), aac6633 [DOI:10.1126/science.aac6633] 
[10] Ibid. 
[11] Ibid. 
[12] Timothy Verstynen & Bradley Voytek, "Do zombies dream of undead sheep? : a neuroscientific view of the zombie brain", Princeton Univeristy Press, 2014. 
 
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