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Sun Jun 3 07:26:21 EST 2012

aesthetics in a language of disruptive and transformative experiences
of digital and networked arrangements, infrastructural forces and
informational devices. From tactical media to the work of vitalist
media ecologists (or the new materialists, if you like) and newer
notions of critical engineering (Oliver, Savi=C4=8Di=C4=87 & Vasiliev), thi=
alteration of sense and perception somehow speaks to the original
meaning of 'aisthesis', however, such theories are read through the
media concept, which is then regularly pushed into discussions of
technicity and affect, where human and nonhuman agencies speak to
events that do not necessarily terminate with a bounded (Kantian) self
('proximate aesthetics' or 'distributed aesthetics' for Munster [and
Lovink] is a good example). That is, aesthetics as a philosophical
category has been historically concerned with the limits of individual
experience, but these media theories often stress how it spills into
assemblages of collective enunciation based on medial conditions of
possibility. And of course, they also have critical implications for
thought - it involves grappling with, as Kittler put it, =E2=80=9Cnetworks =
technologies and institutions that allow a given culture to select,
store, and process relevant data.=E2=80=9D But rather than concluding in an
alternative extreme with the elimination of the modern subject, this
can be considered a milieu or environment for life. It seems to me
that this is why it's important to look at what we mean specifically
by the aesthetic in NA: if aesthetics has been philosophically poised
as the unthought of thought, then this movement on the terms of media
is inevitably tied to the materialities, technics and politics of
cognitive production today.

That said, laying claim to any kind of aesthetic seems like an
outrageous throwback today. As we know, aesthetics is characterized by
a questionable history of ideological mobilisations toward unsound
projects of aristocratic privilege, bourgeois freedoms and modern
emancipation. In this respect, the use of aesthetics as an affirmation
of what is excluded in the present has been critiqued and refuted for
promoting norms that conceal ongoing structural inequalities. Raymond
Williams put it like this: =E2=80=9Cthe form of this protest, within defini=
social and historical conditions, led almost inevitably to new kinds
of privileged instrumentality and specialized commodity." But then he
also added, =E2=80=9Cthe humane response was nevertheless there.=E2=80=9D O=
ne of the
more influential recent approaches to this problematic has been the
work of Ranci=C3=A8re, since there's an attempt to take on this
contradiction as fundamental to post-Kantian aesthetics itself. That
space of confusion seems to inform NA debates, engagements or
dismissals in a number of ways we might want to explore, especially
since we don't often consider theories of media on the same terms.

A crucial aspect of the NA is that aesthetics and the operations of
digital infrastructure are presumed as an overlapping domain. One
consequence is that this inevitably raises questions of
medium-specificity, especially for software. But as opposed to adding
yet another call to 'be specific' about software in some sort of
grounding move, I think it's more important here to also observe how
gestures to medium-specificity are contested, and are often
inseparable with conflicts, transformations and tensions in cultural
production at large. In this respect, advancing definitions of the
medium can be more accurately considered as already existing in a
milieu of antagonisms, as well as a field of engagements with
historical and ontological forces in the elaboration of differentiated
regimes of experience. Hence the contradiction.

The ongoing investments in (artistic) practice across new media might
then be reconsidered in this way. We can list any number of examples:
Hayles' media-specificity approach for literary studies and
comparative media studies; the political importance of protocological
hypertrophy in Galloway (theorized in part through his work for
Rhizome in the 90s and his own practice as RSG); Manovich's arguments
for an informational modernism and the methodology of cultural
analytics; Chun's lobbying for engagements with software on the terms
of differential totality; or Parrika's practice-based theoretical
advances of media archaeology. There's certainly an array of arguments
here that exist as media/aesthetics, and we could easily add more. But
I want to stress how these theories of what is considered specific and
how to engage with those salient qualities of new media often compete
with one another. In some cases, they can be seen as staking out
opposing positions. For me, NA ironically makes this confusing space
more explicit as such, and it also does so through a different
aesthetic gesture.

According to Sterling, Olia Lialina on encountering this idea offered
the one-liner, "the New Aesthetic is New Media without the 'Media'",
but this shouldn't let us off the hook for reflecting on the political
associations (and disassociations) between these terms in our

I hope there's something in this that might be interesting for the
list, apologies if it's unclear or obtuse. Wary of tl;dr for this

Michael Dieter
Gentequemola, "Social Media Expert"
Old West Amsterdam
"Information is like a bank. Our job is to rob that bank." - Genesis P-Orri=

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