French artist Augustin Lignier trained two pet rats to take selfies using a camera attached to their cage.
Lignier embarked on this project as part of his graduate studies in 2021, aiming to explore themes of pleasure, rewards, and addictive behaviors induced by social media.
Inspired by the "Skinner Box" concept, Lignier designed a cage where the rats, named Augustin and Arthur, received sugar as a reward whenever they pressed a button connected to a camera.
The project mirrors social media dynamics, with the rats associating the button press with a pleasurable reward, highlighting the addictive nature of such interactions.
Lignier intentionally emulates funny animal photos found on social media, offering a playful way to delve into topics like reduced attention spans and the impact of algorithms on user behavior.
The artist reflects on the power he felt while manipulating the rats' actions, drawing parallels to the influence social media platforms have over billions of users.
After moving the rats to a standard cage and then back to the original one, Lignier introduced randomized sugar rewards, akin to the unpredictable rewards used by social media and dating apps to engage users.
Lignier notes that every time the rats press the button, they experience a dopamine release, creating a fascinating connection between pleasure, behavior, and the recording of their selfies. The rats eventually went to live with Lignier's mother in southern France until their passing.