Monday, 20 April 2015

Different views of Affordances

Photograph taken with UV filter showing
possible view bees may have

I did some research on bees a few years ago for an art piece, looking at what is known about their social interaction as a hive or community It came to mind several times when reading through our reading list for this module. Von Uexull in his discussion of the "phenomenal world" of the varieties of life in the meadow.  Lyon and Keijzer because of their call to avoid our "species-centrisim"(p134) and acknowledge the insights that studying animal species can give us humans. And Harry Heft's discussion of Gibson's affordance theory "that seem most plausibly applied to features of the environment that have species-specific or transcultural significance" (p1).

Bees see colour differently than humans, they see ultra violet light patterns on flowers. The photographs above show the same flower with the lower photo also showing UV light reflection which happens to highlight the exact location of nectar and pollen. Some flowers that I perceive as having stripes, in UV view look like landing strip guiding systems leading directly to the nectar stash and pollen sites. The importance of bees ability to source food through their UV visual capacity was also noted in research that found that if deprived of UV light bees lose interest in foraging. How different our perceptions of colour may have been if we needed to source nectar and how different the affordances of flowers would be to us as  a species.
Bees also communicate, via dancing; In 1943 Austrian zoologist Karl von Frisch published his study of bees and how they dance at the entrance to the hive to communicate to fellow foraging bees where good sources of nectar can be found. A round dance indicates that food is close by, whereas a waggle dance means it is distant. An interesting 'languaging' system for non verbal bees that may make their group foraging more successful. It is a caveat of cognitive science's studies of human cognition that it is impossible to have an objective view of ourselves but it has to be an intelligent process to compare ourselves with other species and how we have all adapted to the same planet.

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