of Augmented Animals
Animal imagery in this app becomes imbued with an ethos of stewardship that is dependent on an animal abstraction, not particular beings.
Safari Central attempts to shorten the distance between endangered animals and users not by creating an interactive experience with animals, but through their imagery. This is contradictory to their claim of interacting with real animals.
The augmented animal is given a name and background, but its depiction is replaced with a cartoon animation. The depiction does not allow for any identification of an individual animal or unique representation of the wild animal it depicts. While species abstraction can be useful, it becomes problematic when it is coupled with interacting with "six real animals."
For the augmented animals in Safari Central, there is no gaze with or from the animal. Named and given a narrative, the animals of Safari Central takes on a purely decorative role to give the illusion of closeness with an animal, to give the hallucination of fantasy fulfillment.
Marcus Bullock describes looking at animal and says, "There is no part that does not remind us that there is something, a life, an existence that in some way echoes our own, but which remains always behind what meets our gaze, elusive, impossible, unimaginable."1
- Marcus Bullock, "Watching Eyes, Seeing Dreams, Knowing Lives" in Representing Animals ed. Nigel Rothfells (Bloomington IN, Indiana University Press, 2002), 101.
Visualizing animal action irrelevant of any influence of environment or stimuli invites the audience to imagine the animal as a very limited automaton.
Instead of being invited to see how animal bodies interact with their environment and the technology used to project them onto our screens, we are only able to visualize them as limited abstractions in our space.
The augmentation fulfills a fantasy of animal actions that we can project onto ourselves and our environment.
These abstractions are inherently human-centered. The augmented animals move in a way that caters to human photography. For example, the Ethyl the Grizzly bear stands and swats his paws into the air.
This takes our desire to identify with animals and satiates it with technological presence.
Safari Central plays on our desire to use animal imagery to identify ourselves, but it does not enact any actual animals to do so. This removes a critical part of identifying with animals.
Featured images from Safari Central