Joyspotting: rainbow ants
These arresting photos of ants come via the Daily Mail. The photographer, Mohammed Babu, set up this experiment after his wife noticed that some ants had turned white from eating spilled milk. By setting up colored drops of sugar water on sheets of paraffin in his garden, Babu was able to create a palette of rainbow ants, their transparent abdomens revealing their latest meal.
There’s an interesting tension here. We’re not used to seeing insects as joyful, and usually regard them with disgust. (Though this may be a cultural response here in the West, as many other cultures do not have this response and in fact view insects as a perfectly acceptable food source.) But in this case, color seems to override our disgust, and the magic of the ants’ transparent bodies revealing the color opposes our instinct towards disgust with wonder.
When you think about it this way, there’s a powerful design principle in here. Aesthetics can create a kind of fascination that overrides our intrinsic responses, even ones as physical and intense as disgust. It would be interesting to see how this fascination could be developed to help us change behavior based on such instinctual responses – not just disgust, but also perhaps anxiety and fear. If we can design something so that it produces a conflicting response to the brain’s natural alarm bells, this tension can trigger a need for accommodation – a need to fit this new occurrence into the person’s worldview. And that need for accommodation, accompanied by delight, wonder, or curiosity, is often the first step towards a changed mind.
Photos: Mohammed Babu
Daily Mail: “Tasting the Rainbow”