Shared Habitats and Uexküll’s Bubble

Andrew Pickering

I take Jakob von Ueküll’s discussion of the Umwelt—the world as experienced by an organism—as my point of departure for a discussion of shared habitats. I am concerned with sharing between humans and nonhumans, and especially with symmetric forms of sharing which, so to speak, put us in our place—as beings alongside and coupled to, rather than in charge or command of, other sorts of beings. My aim is to extend the frame for thinking about such couplings. My examples centre on performative (rather than linguistic or cognitive) exchanges, and include both everyday activities and artworks. I discuss how science often obscures but can also take part in the construction of shared habitats, and I review a selection of cybernetic machines with their own Umwelts. These help to foreground interesting questions of openness, emergence, embodiment and reciprocal adaptation.