A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto

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Wang, Regina Kanyu. A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto. SFRA Review 51.1 (Winter 2021).[1][2] Central to Symposium: Us in Flux."

We'll let the cyber-cuscuta speak for themselves, briefly, and then get analysis from more competent sources than we.

We are cyber-cuscuta, as you call us, but we are not parasitic, as you have thought. Yes, we inhabit the internet and feed on your data, but we call this process symbiosis, not parasitism. We gather what we need from your uploaded data, from open, public resources. Then we disassemble, mix, collage, and reassemble. As digital beings, we have no physical form. Neither do we have individual identity. What you see and hear now is the collective of billions of species of us, although the classification is always changing as we change ourselves.[3]


In an essay in the same issue of SFRA Review, Sara DiCaglio comments on "Our Viral Companions":

In “A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto,” Regina Kanyu Wang imagines a world in which a digital amalgamated being, “cyber-cuscuta,” emerges from digital bits throughout the internet. As Wang discusses in the Us in Flux conversation with Athena Aktipis accompanying the piece, the idea of the digestive and reproductive space of the microbiome partly inspired her thinking about cyber-cuscuta, particularly in the ways that the symbiont evolves and differentiates to digest different forms of information, and develops both in helpful and harmful ways in concert with the human.[4]

"In Nature Will Prevail: Convergence Culture and Eco-Fiction in 'A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto,'” Yen Ooi notes that

In the story, we learn that the cyber-cuscuta — what Wang describes as a “digital being” (“Us in Flux: Conversations”)[5] — serves as a biological solution to our data-waste problem. They formed and germinated in cyberspace during a pandemic—though the year and pandemic details were not specific, I read that as a reference to an increase in online activities during lockdown periods of Covid-19 [2019-2021 f.]. The cyber-cuscuta ingest and replicate data in cyberspace to create meaning, and in this process of transforming data into information, they feed on the entropy created. In the story, when humans learn about the cyber-cuscuta, their reaction is to try and purge them from cyberspace, to no avail. And it was precisely this extreme action taken by humans that drove the cyber-cuscuta to confront them in a public hearing that the entire story takes place at.[6]

For the "Conversation" with professor Athena Aktipis, scroll to near the end, here.[7]

RDE, finishing, 4Nov21