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Xkcd: Umwelt
April 2, 2012 1:49 PM   Subscribe

xkcd 1037: Umwelt

"Umwelt is the idea that because their senses pick up on different things, different animals in the same ecosystem actually live in very different worlds."

(spoiler)
posted by memebake (82 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
More thorough spoiler
posted by DRMacIver at 1:52 PM on April 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wake me when thalience poses real problems.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:53 PM on April 2, 2012


Wow. I got the snake one this morning, did the browser stretchin', thought that was clever. Didn't realise there were a host of other comics that might come up. MEANINGFUL~
posted by curious nu at 1:55 PM on April 2, 2012


Thanks DRMacIver. I got the snake at home this morning and thought: wha? I get the the hotdogs at school. Not sure I am 100% behind this one. Oh well, hope he was amused writing it.
posted by shothotbot at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2012


Mine was about Vermont and I was all "Woo!" and then I realized everyone else's was about them as well. Well played.
posted by jessamyn at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


for work, i have FF, Chrome, and IE all open at the same time. that means it was easy-peasy to enjoy the full effect. intriguing and fun.

i know it can be wearying to see links to the same places over and over again, but i probably wouldn't have seen this one without this post. much appreciated.
posted by batmonkey at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2012


Mine was about hot dogs and buns that come in huge sacks of blood and ash that play ava maria...not sure what that says about me.
posted by kanata at 2:03 PM on April 2, 2012 [25 favorites]


Upon further investigation I have increased appreciation of the effort he went to, but no additional amusement.
posted by shothotbot at 2:04 PM on April 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


I had a good one about earthquakes in Missouri versus tornadoes in California, which nicely mirrors a conversation I've had frequently with my (Californian) girlfriend.

I'm not always a huge XKCD fan, but I do always like it when R. Munroe puts a lot of effort into his stuff like this.
posted by dismas at 2:04 PM on April 2, 2012


One unfunny comic for each browser you have running? Wow, I can't believe I'm really living in this web2.0 utopia!
posted by codacorolla at 2:05 PM on April 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


What are the other browser folks getting? Safari? Opera? Did he go to any trouble for them?

Mine were: buns for FF, snake for Chrome, state "weather" for IE.
posted by batmonkey at 2:06 PM on April 2, 2012


One unfunny comic for each browser you have running? Wow, I can't believe I'm really living in this web2.0 utopia!

Thank goodness we've reached the "xkcd is unfunny!" quota so early in the conversation. I was worried we'd have to wait for it.
posted by curious nu at 2:07 PM on April 2, 2012 [21 favorites]


Mine was about hot dogs and buns that come in huge sacks of blood and ash that play ava maria...not sure what that says about me.

Phew. I'm glad it's not just me.
posted by anagrama at 2:10 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chrome OS is fixated on franks and buns as well...
posted by jim in austin at 2:11 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


One unfunny comic for each browser you have running? Wow, I can't believe I'm really living in this web2.0 utopia!

Since we are all obligated to post a comment in every thread, even those about things which we dislike or find uninteresting, I hope that this venture was not too painful for you.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2012 [18 favorites]


Umwelt's also the German word for environment.

What's amusing, if you start reading the Wiki article for the semiotics umwelt, they can't decide if it's meant to be capitalised or not.

With that, I shall spend the rest of the afternoon not thinking about semiotics.
posted by hoyland at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2012


Is there a way to see all of them?
posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2012


Mine was about hot dogs and buns that come in huge sacks of blood and ash that play ava maria...not sure what that says about me.

Refresh it and it comes up something different. I think because it's registering metafilter as a referrer. It's a little message to us...
posted by pmcp at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too excited to put the top line in italics...
posted by pmcp at 2:17 PM on April 2, 2012


I was disappointed to find nothing special when I viewed this comic in lynx.
posted by Hamusutaa at 2:18 PM on April 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Ah, here we go.
posted by zarq at 2:22 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, looks like the buns and hotdogs one is triggered by the referrer being SomethingAwful, Questionable Content or Metafilter.
posted by memebake at 2:23 PM on April 2, 2012



Is there a way to see all of them?


I enjoyed reading the forum posts about it where they spelled out a lot of the specifics along with explaining the regional variations.
posted by jessamyn at 2:24 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was kind of disappointed in the one I got here in Chicago. Kind of boring. But the overall idea is incredibly cool.
posted by me3dia at 2:26 PM on April 2, 2012


Heh.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why I got the Aurora one in CT on an iPhone?
posted by smackfu at 2:31 PM on April 2, 2012


This is definitely a lot of work to put into something that the reader truly might not even notice!

That Amherst one is funny though.
posted by SharkParty at 2:32 PM on April 2, 2012


Well, I have no idea what this is supposed to be about or what any of those cartoons mean. I have long known that this XKCD person is on a very different wavelength to me. He buzzes like a fridge. He's like a detuned radio. Or maybe I am.
posted by Decani at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I use the XKCD (unofficial) app on the iPhone to read this and oddly it has the previous strip (1036: Reviews) as the image but the correct title and alt-text.

I thought that the earthquakes vs. blizzards in MN was funny enough this morning (viewed on a computer so it would work) but I had NO idea that there was this much work put into this. Pretty cool stuff.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2012


Well, XKCD is definitely a one-milieu pony, but at least Randall's exploring the medium a bit.
posted by Pinback at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If your referrer is twitter ... if you browse from a .mil domain... if your referrer is reddit ... if you're in Israel ...
posted by memebake at 2:38 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Seriously: what's with the Ave Maria gag?
posted by joe lisboa at 2:48 PM on April 2, 2012


One unfunny comic for each browser you have running? Wow, I can't believe I'm really living in this web2.0 utopia!

Or possibly one joke you do not understand for each browser. It all depends on your point of view, you see.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:50 PM on April 2, 2012


Seriously: what's with the Ave Maria gag?

I think the whole exercise is partially an April Fools joke, so I think that one is just to confuse people who are referred from certain domains (SomethingAwful, Questionable Content and Metafilter afaik). The one you get if you are referred from Facebook is pretty awesome.
posted by memebake at 2:54 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most days it just changes based on the date.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


I was disappointed to find nothing special when I viewed this comic in lynx.

I figured I'd be the only one to try that.
posted by DarkForest at 2:58 PM on April 2, 2012


This comic shows up in my part of northern California. Where they are currently hauling bodies out of the Speed Freak Killers well. Classy.
posted by arruns at 3:04 PM on April 2, 2012


Lynx was my first thought actually; I liked that he did a netscape navigator one.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:04 PM on April 2, 2012


This comic shows up in my part of northern California.

That's the same as the one I get, only mine said Lake Champlain.
posted by jessamyn at 3:17 PM on April 2, 2012


And so the internet is a big un-umwelting machine I guess?
posted by memebake at 3:31 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


“… we must speak more of wretchedness than laziness–more of default, deprivation, and defect in their constitution: no incisor or canine teeth, small and covered eyes, a thick and heavy jaw, flattened hair that looks like dried grass…legs too short, badly turned, and badly terminated….Slowness, stupidity, neglect of its own body, and even habitual sadness, result from this bizarre and neglected conformation…These sloths are the lowest term of existence in the order of animals with flesh and blood; one more defect would have made their existence impossible.” -Buffon


“A sloth in Paris would doubtless fulfill the prophecy of the French scientist, but on the other hand, Buffon clinging upside-down to a branch of a tree in the jungle would expire even sooner.”
posted by edgeways at 3:40 PM on April 2, 2012


OK, I’ve read all this, is the idea that there are totally different geographically based comics for different people? I don’t think a little explanation would diminish the joke.
posted by bongo_x at 3:51 PM on April 2, 2012


The first comment in the thread has a very good explanation
posted by memebake at 3:54 PM on April 2, 2012


Okay, so I had never heard of the term umwelt, but it makes sense and is a fascinating idea we've all probably had independently at some point when thinking about how dogs see, or bees smell, etc. Biologically, that some creatures are so differently tuned in their senses that they might as well live in entirely different ecosystems- even though they are literally next to each other in physical space (and if one had a bent for the supernatural, the concept is even more fascinating)- is pretty astonishing when you ponder it, both on its own and as a functioning metaphor.

And so if one were to have posted a filthy light thief-esque link parade FPP about Umwelt in our social and cultural constructs- including race, class, geography, etc- you'd have a MeFi post with hundreds of comments because everyone's got an opinion and dammit, it will be heard! If you chose to refine that post to just focus on how web technologies in many cases allow us to so aggressively filter both the display of and content wihin our web experiences that we're more and more living in fragmented subcultural ecosystems, you'd crack 100 multi-paragraph essay format responses in under a half hour.


But you make one webcomic that expresses this idea subtly but effectively in a way that is ultimately far more concrete than a hand-wavy Philosophy 101 exposition to get that conversation rolling... and the armchair smarter-than-thou jaded brigade at MetaFilter can't hardly wait to fall over themselves dismissing the comic as unfunny, lame, pointless, or incomprehensible.
posted by hincandenza at 3:56 PM on April 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


But you make one webcomic that expresses this idea subtly but effectively in a way that is ultimately far more concrete than a hand-wavy Philosophy 101 exposition to get that conversation rolling... and the armchair smarter-than-thou jaded brigade at MetaFilter can't hardly wait to fall over themselves dismissing the comic as unfunny, lame, pointless, or incomprehensible.

Snarky nerd-macho bullshit like the linked posts is just dull.

It's like marching into a cake shop and telling them you're allergic to sugar and flour. Then leaving, because, you know, allergies.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:05 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


iCab gets the "I found a snake" -> engagement ring one.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2012


So we couldn’t just say "check out this comic that is different for everyone"? Does it have to be a puzzle?
posted by bongo_x at 4:18 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


wait, people still make "Questionable Content"? when did this continue to happen
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:20 PM on April 2, 2012


Wake me when thalience poses real problems.

Someday....
posted by Thalience at 4:22 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


vaguely related:

it turns out that there is a relatively new translation of uexküll.

see also previously.
posted by jann at 4:28 PM on April 2, 2012


Several different browsers bring up a comic that has to do with Georgia, presumably because I'm in Georgia. Which is nice, but I'd like not to see the Georgia comic. I already get enough of the whole Georgia-flavored perspective here in the form of clueless political opinions.
posted by JHarris at 4:29 PM on April 2, 2012


A friend just viewed it from a Verizon device thingy and got an out-of-bandwidth joke.
posted by JHarris at 4:31 PM on April 2, 2012


So we couldn’t just say "check out this comic that is different for everyone"? Does it have to be a puzzle?

Well, as you know all mefi posts are created by a committee of 100 or more mefi members who all carefully consider all possible viewpoints and opinions of the metafilter membership and then carefully craft each post so that it will please the maximum number of people while annoying virtually none of them. This leads to the famous "please everyone all the time" atmosphere that metafilter is famous for. Unfortunately it looks like in this case the committee failed to anticipate your particular reaction, we will send a memo round to the committee to try and make sure more different possible viewpoints are taken into account in future.

I thought it would be fun as a puzzle.
posted by memebake at 4:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I still don't get it. Is this an April Fool's joke about browser detection? Why is it in German?
posted by monospace at 4:49 PM on April 2, 2012


My main internet connection is a Verizon 3G MiFi bridge and in every browser I tried I got a panel saying my Verizon monthly bandwidth cap had been met and mobile browsing was disabled.

Which, frankly, would be great if it were true because what Verizon actually does is they start charging me 5 times my base rate for the overuse bandwidth, so that the 6th gigabyte costs as much as the first 5, and there's no realtime warning at all.
posted by localroger at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why is it in German?

Anything in German is automatically more profound. See Entscheidungsproblem and Gedankenexperiment. Double points if its a concept that would take a whole sentence to explain in English but has a single word 'untranslatable' counterpart in German.
posted by Pyry at 5:17 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Didn't work for me. I got a comic about elves.
posted by gnomes at 5:35 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tired: Coming down on XKCD like a ton of bricks for being unfunny.

Wired: Coming down like a ton of bricks on mefites who find XKCD unfunny.

I like the comic, by the way. I'm not aware of anyone else who has done something as interesting with browser request data. I'm also totally excited to be proven wrong, if anyone has any examples.
posted by poe at 5:36 PM on April 2, 2012


When I think of Randall Munroe I think of something George Bernard Shaw once said,

"Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week."

He seems to manage it at least that often.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:45 PM on April 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I like the idea behind the joke, but I needed to have it explained to me. I saw the comic in my RSS reader, it didn't load properly, I clicked through to the website, read the comic and thought it was not one of his better ones and looked a bit weird, and went about my morning. I never would've gotten that there was more to it that the one panel if it weren't for this post.

I was reading it while groggy-headed this morning. Maybe I should save xkcd for after my first cup of tea.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:11 PM on April 2, 2012


I'm shocked that the metafilter I've been browsing and enjoying mostly as a lurker for a few years now is so snarky and dismissive about a comic that illustrates an idea quite profoundly.

Yes, the comic's author doesn't give you all the answers and there's an internet-wide effort piecing it all together. The entire point he's trying to make is that you can't understand everything from your own unique perspective.

How did xkcd has become such a polarized entity where some defend it to the end ("Randall, get out of my head!"), while others loathe it for being unfunny and uninspired?

Ditto hincandenza's post, as well.
posted by Slurgi at 7:51 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The day after April Fools, nobody is funny?
posted by rahnefan at 8:10 PM on April 2, 2012


How did xkcd has become such a polarized entity

It's popular.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:48 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


A (Compleat?) List of the comics and variations, via Reddit.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:52 PM on April 2, 2012


Hey, this pissed me off after I figured it out. Alabama and Texas have snow, then later somebody reminded him that Alabama actually DOES have tornadoes and it switched, but lets make different comics for the environments we're actually familiar with.

There's nothing quite like being tricked into thinking somebody cares about your own local slice of the world and then finding out that they do not. And then finding a list that shows the places that they do care about!
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:56 PM on April 2, 2012


If you're still confused, DRMacIver's comment has the list, with explication.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:58 PM on April 2, 2012


There's nothing quite like being tricked into thinking somebody cares about your own local slice of the world and then finding out that they do not. And then finding a list that shows the places that they do care about!

In case you haven't figured it out yet, that comic strip is (also) about Randall Munroe's personal umwelt, reflecting his knowledge and understanding of the world, his ideologies etc. It's therefore quite inevitable that some places he knows or cares more about than others and some things are more important to him than others. No point in getting worked up about it.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:38 PM on April 2, 2012


And so if one were to have posted a filthy light thief-esque link parade FPP about Umwelt in our social and cultural constructs- including race, class, geography, etc- you'd have a MeFi post with hundreds of comments because everyone's got an opinion and dammit, it will be heard!

Is this a challenge? Because if so, I'll accept. It might take some time, though.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:44 PM on April 2, 2012


I think it's interesting that some of the Specific Places that are Salient and Worth Recognizing to him are colleges rather than like towns or states. Not bad, just interesting, in a sure-enough he-sees-the-world-differently-than-I-do kind of way. If I were going to do this, it wouldn't have occurred to me to divide the world up by school, instead of by location more broadly.

I mean, it makes sense. Dude is way college-y, in the enthusiastically-white-and-nerdy sense rather than the drink-beer-and-shout-stuff sense thank goodness. But... huh. Yeah. Umwelt. Whaddayaknow.

Oh look I'm overdue for my annual dehyphenating treatment. I gotta cut down on that shit.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:58 PM on April 2, 2012


I'm amused that viewing in IE or Opera (laptop) or Dolphin (tablet) in Greece gives me something that appears to be "staring into the abyss." So true, so true.

(but in firefox I get snake and in chrome I get turtle.)
posted by taz at 12:48 AM on April 3, 2012


I got different comics from each of 3 browsers (chrome firefox& ie), plus a bunch more when I thought to turn on tor and keep leaving/returning (refreshing didn't work).

The man is brilliant, what can I say?
posted by windykites at 12:51 AM on April 3, 2012


I think the whole exercise is partially an April Fools joke, so I think that one is just to confuse people who are referred from certain domains (SomethingAwful, Questionable Content and Metafilter afaik). The one you get if you are referred from Facebook is pretty awesome.
posted by memebake at 10:54 PM on April 2


So let me see if I'm starting to get this: this Munroe person's idea of a "joke" involves being variously unfunny in a browser-dependent way? Good Lord. Kids today.
posted by Decani at 1:25 AM on April 3, 2012


Snarky nerd-macho bullshit like the linked posts is just dull.

It's like marching into a cake shop and telling them you're allergic to sugar and flour. Then leaving, because, you know, allergies.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:05 AM on April 3


You and hincandenza may find it impossible to believe that my post expressed genuine bafflement at what was going on here, but I'm afraid your difficulty in that regard does not affect my difficulty in the other. I was not saying this... whatever it is... is crap. I was saying I don't understand it. I even finished my comment with the admission that the fault was probably mine.
posted by Decani at 1:34 AM on April 3, 2012


For what it's worth, here's Uexküll's famous A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men readable online, in full. It's rather short.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 6:00 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, so I had never heard of the term umwelt, but it makes sense and is a fascinating idea we've all probably had independently

Lady of Mazes, by Karl Schroeder is an excellent far-future SF novel exploring this concept.
posted by straight at 6:07 AM on April 3, 2012


I got one about an earthquake in Michigan.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:40 AM on April 3, 2012


Decani: " You and hincandenza may find it impossible to believe that my post expressed genuine bafflement at what was going on here, but I'm afraid your difficulty in that regard does not affect my difficulty in the other. I was not saying this... whatever it is... is crap. I was saying I don't understand it. I even finished my comment with the admission that the fault was probably mine."

Which you then followed up with:

"So let me see if I'm starting to get this: this Munroe person's idea of a "joke" involves being variously unfunny in a browser-dependent way? Good Lord. Kids today."

Which neatly fits hincandenza's description: "...the armchair smarter-than-thou jaded brigade at MetaFilter can't hardly wait to fall over themselves dismissing the comic as unfunny, lame, pointless, or incomprehensible.

So it would seem they jumped the gun a bit. But they were right, no? :)
posted by zarq at 7:15 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read your comment as expressing genuine bafflement, Decani, and didn't have a problem with it. People have different senses of humor and think different kinds of things are funny. It's OK, we can all live in the same universe. (Which is partly what the joke's about, actually.)

If it helps, most of the individual April 1 panels get a "huh?" reaction from xkcd fans too. I don't think there's anything about singing hot-dog buns to get. It really just doesn't make any sense. They do, though, mimic the reaction non-fans have to all his comics.
posted by nangar at 7:45 AM on April 3, 2012


... and responding to zarq's response to Decani:

... this Munroe person's idea of a "joke" involves being variously unfunny in a browser-dependent way?

Yes, that's exactly right.

(Except some of us thought that was funny.)
posted by nangar at 7:52 AM on April 3, 2012


The .mil one won me over.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:04 AM on April 3, 2012


I think the whole idea was great. I might have framed the post differently, but yeah, carp carp carp. No other webcomic would try something like this, and even if not all the individual strips are winners many of them are, about the usual percentage for xkcd.
posted by JHarris at 2:05 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So we couldn’t just say "check out this comic that is different for everyone"? Does it have to be a puzzle?

I thought it would be fun as a puzzle.


Sorry, I wasn’t trying to dump on your post, I just couldn’t figure it out, and by the time I did I didn’t care that much anymore. I didn’t even realize it was something to be figured out, just a comic and a lot of vague talk.
posted by bongo_x at 2:31 PM on April 3, 2012


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