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Artist skilled rats to take selfies to make some extent about social media

Artist skilled rats to take selfies to make some extent about social media

2024-01-26 06:50:13

As It Occurs5:59Artist trains rats to take selfies to make some extent about social media

When Augustin Lignier constructed a photograph sales space for rats, he was actually making an attempt to level the lens at humanity.

The French artist skilled two pet retailer rodents to take selfies in change for candy treats. However over time, he says, they began doing it purely for the pleasure. 

He says it is not in contrast to the way in which individuals interact with social media — at first for the likes, however finally simply to set off a flood of feel-good chemical compounds in our brains. 

“It is to replicate our behaviour, how we behave on-line,” the French artist advised As It Occurs host Nil Köksal. “How we take pictures and why we take pictures, and why we work together with completely different gadgets, like telephones, primarily, and apps.”

A clear rectangular box with four levels. The top and bottom levels contain wiring. In the middle, two levels are connected by a small pink ladder. Attached to the box is a camera and a lighting set up.  A white mouse is perched directly in front of the camera lens, in the second highest level, pushing down on a small level connected to a wire. Below him, brown and white mouse climbs the ladder.
Artist Augustin Lignier constructed a modified Skinner field for his rats. (Augustin Lignier/

For his installlation Selfie Rats, Lignier acquired two male rats from a pet retailer, which he named Augustin and Arthur after himself and his brother.

Somewhat than topics, he says he noticed the critters as “collaborators.”

“For me, they’re actually like performers, you already know? They carry out for the digital camera,” he stated. “They appear cute.”

The set up is from 2021, however has been the main focus of renewed consideration after being featured in the New York Times this week. 

He constructed his personal model of a Skinner field, a tool designed by behavioural scientist B.F. Skinner to conduct studying experiments on rats. 

Within the unique Skinner field experiments, rats would push a lever to dispense meals pellets. In Lignier’s field, when Arthur and Augustin pushed the lever, a digital camera would snap their image and show it on a display in entrance of them. 

At first, he says, pushing the lever additionally allotted a chunk of sugar, rewarding selfies with sweets. 

“Then they begin to affiliate, like, an motion to pleasure,” Lignier stated. “And so they begin to play increasingly with it.”

On the left, a brown mouse peers out from the corner and looks at the camera while pushing down on a plastic lever with one little pink paw. On the right, a white mouse pushes the same lever with its chin, side-eying the camera and hanging one hand over a small, clear plastic ledge.
At first, Lignier says the rats took selfies for treats. However finally, he says they did it only for the joys. (Augustin Lignier/

After the rats have been skilled to push the extent for sugar, Lignier modified the experiment’s parameters. Typically taking an image would yield a chunk of sugar, and generally wouldn’t.

Nonetheless, the rats saved on jamming the button, taking dozens of selfies. After awhile, he says they largely stopped bothering to eat the sugar, even when it got here out. 

“Each time they push the button, they’ve pleasure inside their mind,” Lignier stated. “That is why they hold going.”

Side-by-side photos of rats pushing down on a plastic lever while sticking their noses up in the air. On the left, a brown and white rat uses both hands to push down, while on the right, an all-white rat pushes down with one hand while pressing the other against its glass enclosure, like Rose in Titanic.
Like all social media professionals, Arthur and Augustin took selfies from quite a lot of angles. (Augustin Lignier/

Lignier says the set up attracts a connection between how the rats use the picture field and the way people use social media. At first, he says, people are incentivized by measurable rewards — specifically likes or different engagements on posts.

However social media might be fickle, and people rewards are intermittent at finest. Many behavioural consultants and researchers have stated that what actually retains individuals scrolling and posting is dopamine. 

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Dopamine is a chemical produced within the mind after we do one thing pleasurable, like consuming, exercising and having intercourse. It motivates us to proceed that pleasurable behaviour, which is why it is also linked with habit. 

In an interview with the Guardian, addictions professional Anna Lembke, writer of Dopamine Nation, referred to as the smartphone a “modern-day hypodermic needle.”

However whereas Lignier says Selfie Rats is supposed to make us take into consideration what drives our behaviours on-line, it is not essentially a scathing critique of web tradition.

“Large tech corporations design our behaviour,” he stated. “However we are able to nonetheless have enjoyable and revel in it.”

Arthur and Augustin produced dozens upon dozens of selfies, making an attempt out completely different angles like actual social media professionals. However Lignier says they did not appear to get any fulfilment from the photographs themselves.

“I attempt to present them the photographs on the display, so straight after they took the image, they will see their very own selfie,” he stated. “However they do not acknowledge themselves, you already know.”

When his beloved collaborators have been completed with their modelling job, he says he despatched them to his mom’s home in southern France to reside out the remainder of their quick lives in peace and luxury.

They’ve since died, he says, and are buried in his mom’s backyard, side-by-side.

Side-by-side images of rats looking at the camera while pushing down on a small plastic lever.
Lignier says he noticed the rats as his ‘collaborators’ and ‘performers.’ (Augustin Lignier/

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