Cataloguing our microbial roommates

On the NYT site this morning I ran across an interesting video entitled “The Jungle Indoors” and a companion article “Mapping the Great Indoors.” Subtitled “Getting to Know Our Microbial Roommates,” the article and video discuss the ecology of our homes.  Humans are an indoor species spending as much as 90% of our time indoors, and ecologists have become interested in learning about these intimate relationships that have gone unnoticed thus far.  How do humans “colonize” the places we live and how can understanding these relationships lead to better health are the main questions behind this study.  What I find infinitely intriguing is that this study (and studies on the microbiome in our guts and skin) are generally reported with a sense of wonder and even awe at the magic of these relationships:

“But as humdrum as a home might first appear, it is a veritable wonderland. Ecology does not stop at the front door; a home to you is also home to an incredible array of wildlife.”

If, as Weber wrote, we have lost our sense of enchantment with the modern world, these morsels remind us that this may not be entirely the case.  Plus, it opens up discussions about our built environments and structures, along with what it might mean to live together with all kinds of “roommates.”

8 thoughts on “Cataloguing our microbial roommates

  1. your closing remark is cool: perhaps, given his lofty view of both history and patterns, he missed the super-micro world that Latour (via Pasteur) showed us … where some enchantment may still lay, albeit, quite small bits of enchantment.


  2. Ha, yes indeed, a very interesting line to follow. It is like re-reading “Politics of Nature” and “Companion Species” through the lens of Latour´s Pasteur! Although: I would be careful not to read the mix of a rhetoric of wonder, magic and enchantment with academic curiosity as usual that is used in these kinds of study as a sign of a return of enchantment…


      • “the whole process is called ‘experimental metaphysics’, a deliberate (re)ordering of things human and nonhuman, which is post-value and post-fact.” on page 953)


      • To be fair, many people are freaked out by the “bugs”. Academic curiosity might be closer to the mark. Though I have collected many a non academic blog and article about the subject.


    • I was shamelessly self-quoting, so I’ll allow ‘experimental ontology’ over ‘experimental metaphysics’ (which was, originally, Latour’s in PoN)


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