New Aesthetic

Some blurbs on the buzz word of the year 2012 (this archived post is dated Dec 29, 2012). Many people wrote on that in the textual agencements of www. It is called “New Aesthetic” and even has a wikipedia entry. It was coined in March at the SXSW 2012 by James Bridle from London. There was even a panel for it called “The New Aesthetics: Seeing Like Digital Devices”.

Bruce Sterling wrote on it, the V2 published a E-book on it (with contributions by Michael Dieter, David M. Berry (here his blogpost on the subject) and others), Robert Jackson (here a more recent post) or Ian Bogost wrote about it and many others. This one was of great help.

Since the concept is very powerful and sort of design fictional as Bruce Sterling wrote in the mentioned blog entry and since I am, as part of the Berlin-Basel context of German media theory, always a little bit anachronistic and since I feel sometimes still young and idealistic, here some late, short claims in my awkwardly strange English..

  1. Machinic aesthetics (Seeing Like Digital Devices) is not only about seeing and vision, but as well about listening and hearing to rhythms, time-varying signals, music, vibrations and other forms of regular or non-regular oscillations. Mostly New Aesthetic is grounded on Algorhythmics.
  2. People of the New Aesthetic movement should look more on the invisible sides of digital culture, thus get blind and start to listen. And there would be even some good points [1, 2] to start.
  3. Media technologies that make visible the invisible are most the time based on time varying signals be it electric, electromagnetic, acoustic, vibrational or else.
  4. People of the New Aesthetic movement could cultivate a more non-objective, non-vision-based style of objectivity, since our digital culture is based more and more not only on objects doing something, but on SIGNALS, WAVES, OSCILLATIONS. Adrian Mackenzie describes an important aspect of rhythmized signals with the term “wirelessness“.
  5. This non-object-oriented, but signal-based style of critical inquiry is based on the old discussion whether the world is made of particles or of waves.. Thus starting from the wave is as legitimate as to start from the object or particle.
  6. Below and beyond the visible is the invisible realm of waves and rhythms. Even our brains are made not only by networks of neurons, but as well as by bioelectric signaling and rhythms between these networks and neurons. Light and color are both made by electromagnetic signals.
  7. We need to cultivate methods of rhythmanalysis and flirt with iconoclasm, which is not bad per se and might be the starting point of a rehabilitation of objective, non-visual, but still rational critique.
  8. What about blind aesthetics?
  9. What about animal aesthetics? Or insect aesthetics. Read Jussi Parikka’s Insect Media or google for research papers by Meta Virant-Doberlet.
  10. Maybe “New Aesthetic” started with “Cybernetics; or, Control and communication in the animal and the machine” (1948) by Norbert Wiener…

Maybe it started with the duck by Jacques de Vaucanson (1709–1782), who as well build musical automata. Or with the Arabs, who around 1200 taught the Europeans to use machines and calculate with symbolic numbers and placeholders and not just with stones, lines and circles. 100 years later the first avant-garde movement evolved: It was called “Ars Nova“, which is very closed to “New Aesthetics”. In this sense it might be as anachronistic as my little blurb here.