Naturebot: Unconventional Visions of Nature presents a humanities-oriented addition to the literature on biomimetics and bioinspiration, an interdisciplinary field which investigates what it means to mimic nature with technology.
This technology mirrors the biodiversity of nature and it is precisely this creation of technological metaphors for the intricate workings of the natural world that is the real subject of Naturebot. Over the course of the book, Barilla applies the narrative conventions of the nature writing genre to this unconventional vision of nature, contrasting the traditional tropes and questions of natural history with an expanding menagerie of creatures that defy conventional categories of natural and artificial. In keeping with its nature writing approach, the book takes us to where we can encounter these creatures, examining the technological models and the biotic specimens that inspired them. In doing so, it contemplates the future of the human relationship to the environment, and the future of nature writing in the 21st century.
This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of biomimetics, environmental literary studies/ecocriticism, and the environmental humanities.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Biomimetic Trail
1. Trailhead: Quadrupeds and Plantoids
2. Interpretive Station: Bats and Biomimetic Sensors
3. Interpretive Station: Social Insects and Robotic Swarms
4. Interpretive Station: Social Robots and Other Trailside Companions
5. Trail’s End: Burgers and Biomimetic Bodies
James Barilla is associate professor in the English Department at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches creative nonfiction and environmental writing in the MFA program. He is the author of two other books about the human relationship with the natural world, My Backyard Jungle and West with the Rise.
"Naturebot is a beautifully written and researched exploration of the rapidly growing field of biomimicry and its implications for how we think of and live in the world. It is an important book, one which will begin a much-needed conversation about the social and ecological costs and benefits of this brave new nature."
- Helena Feder, Associate Professor, East Carolina University
"When in unfamiliar terrain, having an adept guide can make all the difference between getting lost and finding a way—between being frightened of new phenomena, and learning from surprise encounters. In this scintillating book, James Barilla serves as the steady, insightful guide readers need to navigate the wildly fabricated landscape of biomimicry in its myriad forms. Naturebot is the story of a place that involves us, a living topos which is rapidly becoming everywhere."
- Christopher Schaberg, Dorothy Harrell Brown Distinguished Professor of English, Loyola University New Orleans
"A timely, fascinating take on the intersection of biology and technology, Naturebot will change your view of the future. With humor and insight, Barilla takes us on a compelling journey into a new kind of wildness—one that will appeal to scholar, student, and casual reader alike—a technological terrain that raises provocative questions about the connections between Nature, science, and art. What Barilla finds in his encounters with unconventional nature is at turns absurd, frightening, and hopeful—often all at once. His message is one we cannot hear too often: our future will be what we make it, and in fact we are making it right now. It would be good for us to pay attention and choose wisely. Naturebot goes far in showing us how."
- Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night and The Ground Beneath Us