[-empyre-] The New Aesthetic: Seeing Like Machines

Patrick Lichty plichty at colum.edu
Wed Sep 12 04:48:38 EST 2012

September on –empyre soft-skinned space: The New Aesthetic: Seeing Like 

Moderated by Patrick Lichty (US) with invited discussants:

Rahel Alma, David M. Berry, Ina Blom, Nick Briz, Amber Case, Marcelo 
Coelho, Michael Dieter, David Golumbia, Julia Kaganskiy, Michelle 
Kasprzak, Jon Lebkowsky, Patrick Lichty, Joanne McNeil, Hrag Vartanian

empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au


EMPYRE GO TO: http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/

The New Aesthetic: Seeing Like Machines
It’s been months since Bruce Sterling delivered his endnote talk at SXSW 
highlighting James Bridle et al’s panel on The New Aesthetic, and there 
have been furious conversations about it. If we take the replies by Watz 
et al on the The Creators Project blog as an indication, there is a bit 
of dismissal of the idea from my interpretation. However, many of us are 
still talking about the idea, but why? I still believe that a cultural 
chord was struck that is a result of extant developments in contemporary 
digital art of the 2000’s that lead right to The New Aesthetic blog, or 
something like it. Where I and others argue that The New Aesthetic might 
be a non-movement, I would like to re-imagine that it is actually 
indicative of other cultural phenomena and New Media proto-movements. 
These have to do with issues of curation, precedents in New Media 
“movements”, and the shape of culture in New Media society. Where I 
think Bridle et al might have done a disservice to the idea of NA is 
through a partial superficiality in the case of a subject, while 
ephemeral, is not superficial at all.

Why? It is for the reason that in the current day and age, ephemerality 
is often mistaken for superficiality. Net.culture by default is 
mercuric, and technoculture is typified by the fact that things like the 
iPad and tablets have become nearly ubiquitous within two years of the 
technology’s emergence. This is reflected in online culture, through the 
torrent (pun intended) of images spilling through social media like 
blogs, Facebook, image boards, and tumblrs like The New Aesthetic. Love 
or hate it, what Bridle describes is a phenomenology of this torrent of 
images as an aesthetic and their generation by technology. For this 
month’s discussion on Empyre which will last only three weeks due to the 
disappearance of a week in the black hole of the start of the academic 
semester, we will have a floating group of key correspondents on the 
subject who have been posting and publishing around the Net on The New 

Week 1: Whither the New Aesthetic: Histories, Emergence, Context , Genres
(9/8-16, Michelle Kasprzak, Patrick Lichty and Jon Lebkowski)
In March 2012, Bruce Sterling set loose the meme of the New Aesthetic on 
the mass blogosphere through his endnotes at SXSW, but James Bridle had 
been looking at the idea for a year before. Where did The New Aesthetic 
come from? Does it really exist, or is it a set of practices that think 
about the current state of imaging? Or, is NA the outgrowth of 
computational aesthetics born in the 60’s born through investigators 
like A Michael Noll, and Ken Knowlton? Also, what are the ethical 
concerns of NA, like the detached aesthetics of drone surveillance.

In addition, another question is whether NA is a set of aesthetic 
practices rather than a unified movement, NA has been attached to 
aesthetics like Lo-Fi, Glitch, DataViz, Robot Vision, and Drone 
Surveillance. IS NA a cloud of practices, what are they, and if so, 
where does it point?

Week 2: The New Aesthetic;: How Much Weirder Does It Need To Get?/Notes 
on Banality/Eternal Newness
In the second year of discussion of The New Aesthetic, critical voices 
emerged about the purported movement. Ian Bogost stated in The Atlantic 
that NA “needs to get weirder”, Marius Watz critiqued NA as a site of 
“Perpetual Newness”, and Robert Jackson looks at NA in terms of sheer 
banality. What is evident is that NA has created conversation about 
SOMETHING. What are the metanarratives that NA begs for us to address? 
Is this the argument about New Media’s newness, the weirdness of 
divergence from history, or the idea that a “movement” gets stumbled 
upon in a blog?

Week 3: The New Aesthetic: Where To Go From Here?
In Patrick Lichty’s post at RealityAugmented, he muses whether the 
nature of the movement is as ephemeral as online culture, and perhaps 
interest in NA should be limited to a year (roughly March 2013). 
Although this is an ironic statement, does NA have enough staying power 
for lengthy cultural investigation, or will it blow away like a Facebook 
post? Or, is it an indication of the shape of culture’s future….

This month’s September edition of –empyre The New Aesthetic: Seeing Like 
Machines is moderated by Patrick Lichty (US) 
http://www.patricklichty.com, Assistant Professor of Interactive Arts 
and Media at Columbia College Chicago and Editor-in-Chief at Intelligent 
Agent Magazine http://www.intelligentagent.com.

Rahel Alma
Rahel is co-editor at THE STATE. Her research focuses on the 
intersections of magic, radical politics and future technologies. She is 
currently based in Brooklyn.

David M. Berry
David M. Berry, born 1972, is a Lecturer in Media and Communication in 
the Department of Political and Cultural Studies at Swansea University. 
He has published on intellectual property rights, ‘copyleft’ and 
open-source software, Art and creativity, and the politics of code. His 
book Copy, Rip, Burn: The Politics of Copyleft and Open Source was 
published by Pluto Press in 2008. His next monograph is titled 
Philosophy of Software: Code and Mediation in the Digital Age and will 
be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011.

Ina Blom
Ina Blom is an art critic, curator and art historian. Since 2001 she has 
been an Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, 
History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo, Norway, specialising 
in modernism and avant-garde studies, and contemporary art and 
aesthetics, with a particular focus on media art practices and media 
aesthetics. A former music critic, she has also worked extensively as an 
art critic and curator, contributing to frieze, Parkett, Afterall, 
Artforumand Texte zur Kunst. Selected writings include: On the Style 
Site; Art, Sociality and Television Culture (Sternberg Press, New York 
2007); How to (not) Answer a Letter, The Postal Performance of Ray 
Johnson's (MIT Press, Oslo / Kassel / Sittard, 2003); Joseph Beuys 
(Gyldendal, Oslo, 2001).

Nick Briz
Nick Briz is a new-media artist/writer/thinker/educator/organizer living 
and working in Chicago, IL. I am co-organizer and co-founder of 
GLI.TC/H, an international noise and [dirty] new-media 
festival/conference/gathering. I also co-organize Upgrade!Chicago, a 
monthly art and technology series held at the Nightingale Theater. As an 
educator I've developed and taught courses on new-media art, Internet 
art + culture[s], remix art + culture[s] and experimental music. I 
develop digital/web/interactive projects for various clients with 
Branger_Briz. My work has been exhibited at festivals and galleries 
around the world including the FILE Media Arts Festival in Rio de 
Janeiro, Brazil, the Sydney Underground Film Festival, the European 
Media Arts Festival in Osnabruek, Germany, and the Images Festival in 
Toronto, Canada. My video work is distributed through Video Out 
Distribution in Vancouver, Canada as well as openly and freely on the web.

Amber Case
Amber Case is a cyborg anthropologist and the founder of Geoloqi, Inc., 
a company bringing the future of location to the world. She has been 
featured in Forbes, WIRED, and many other publications, both in the 
United States and around the world. Her main focus is mobile software, 
non-visual augmented reality, the future of location, and reducing the 
amount of time and space it takes for people to connect. Case has spoken 
at TED on technology and humans and was featured in Fast Company 2010 as 
one of the Most Influential Women in Technology. She’s worked with 
Fortune 500 companies at Wieden+Kennedy and on major applications at 
Vertigo Software. She was named one of National Geographic’s 2012 
Emerging Explorers. She is @caseorganic on Twitter.

Marcelo Coelho
Marcelo Coelho is a designer and researcher whose work dwells in the 
intersection of human-computer interaction, materials science and 
design. He is an inventor of paper computers, shape changing composites, 
interactive garments, and digital gastronomy.
Marcelo holds a BFA in Computation Arts, with highest honors, from 
Concordia University in Montreal, where he was also a Research Partner 
at XS Labs developing wearable technology and interactive textiles. He 
is currently based in Cambridge, MA, where he is on leave from his 
studio Zigelbaum + Coelho to complete his doctorate at the MIT Media Lab.
Marcelo’s work has been exhibited internationally, in venues such as Ars 
Electronica, Design Miami/Basel, W Hotels, Societe des arts 
technologiques, Gallerie Sequence, Digifest, Dutch Design Week, 
Collision Collective and Seamless Fashion Show, and has won several 
grants and awards, including Designer of the Future Award by Design 
Miami/Basel, MIT Council for the Arts Grant, VAV production grant, US 
National Congress on Computational Mechanics Award, Golden Key Visual & 
Performing Arts Achievement Award, and CHI Best Video Golden Mouse Award.
Academically, Marcelo’s research has been widely published in books, 
popular press and academic conferences such as SIGGRAPH, ISEA, ISWC, 
Ubicomp, TEI and CHI.
Marcelo has given numerous classes, workshops and public lectures at 
MIT, Fordham University, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, The 
Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Banff New Media Institute and 
Canada’s National Research Council. He currently co-teaches a course on 
Techniques for Design and Fabrication at the MIT Media Lab with a focus 
on interaction design and organizes the Transitive Materials workshops, 
a series of multidisciplinary gatherings that bring together artists, 
designers, scientists and researchers working at the shifting boundaries 
between people, materials and computers.

Michael Dieter
Michael Dieter is a lecturer in New Media at the University of 
Amsterdam. His current research interests focus on relations of art, 
media, ecology and politics. He is a PhD scholar on contemporary 
technoscientific art practices, entitled Reticular Aesthetics. His 
publications have appeared in Fibreculture, M/C and the Australian 
Humanities Review.
David Golumbia
David Golumbia writes about contemporary digital culture and theory, 
computational issues in philosophy, and linguistic diversity. He worked 
as a software designer in the financial information industry in New York 
City. He teaches in the Department of English and the PhD program in 
Media, Art, and Text at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the 
author of The Cultural Logic of Computation (Harvard UP, 2009) and of 
many articles, and maintains the digital culture blog 
http://uncomputing.org as well as the widely exhibited net.art project 

Julia Kaganskiy
Julia Kaganskiy is Global Editor of The Creators Project and organizes 
The Creators Project meetups in NYC. She lives and breathes all things 
art and technology. She's also the founder and organizer of the Arts, 
Culture and Technology meetup and co-founder of Blue Box Gallery. 
FastCompany once named her one of the "Most Influential Women in 

Michelle Kasprzak
Michelle Kasprzak is a Canadian curator and writer based in Amsterdam, 
the Netherlands. She has appeared in Wired UK, on radio and TV 
broadcasts by the BBC and CBC, and lectured at PICNIC. She founded one 
of the world's leading art curating blogs, Curating.info. She has 
written critical essays for Rhizome, CV Photo, Mute, Spacing, and many 
other media outlets.

In 2006, she was awarded a curatorial research residency at the Nordic 
Institute for Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland, in 2010 she 
attended the Summer Seminars for Art Curators in Yerevan, Armenia, and 
in 2011 was a guest of the BAM International Visitor’s Programme in 
Flanders. She has a BFA in New Media (Ryerson University, 2000) and MA 
in Visual and Media Arts (Université du Québec à Montréal, 2006).
The results of her curatorial work have appeared in venues worldwide. 
Most recently, she co-curated Constellationswith Karen Gaskill, an 
exhibition featuring artists Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Kitty Kraus, Katie 
Paterson, and Takahiro Iwasaki at Cornerhouse in Manchester, UK. She has 
also been appointed as part of the curatorial team for the 2012 ZER01 
Biennial in San Jose, California.
Michelle is currently Curator at V2_ Institute for Unstable Media, 
Project Director at McLuhan in Europe 2011, and a member of IKT 
(International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art).

Jon Lebkowsky
jon.lebkowsky at gmail.com
Jon Lebkowsky writes about culture, technology, media, sustainability 
and other topics for various publications, and has been blogging 
regularly since 2000. He's an acknowledged authority on social media and 
online community
In 1991 he cofounded the pioneering online company FringeWare, Inc., the 
first company to attempt e-commerce. The company published the 
influential magazine FringeWare Review, which had an international 
distribution. he was involved in online community and e-commerce 
projects throughout the 1990s, and worked with bOING bOING (as associate 
editor for the original paper zine), HotWired, The Whole Earth Catalog, 
Electric Minds, and many other web and cyberculture projects and 
endeavors during the World Wide Web's first decade. In the late 90s, I 
was actively involved in the creation of various e-commerce and 
community initiatives for Whole Foods Market (and gained quite a few 
pounds, for obvious reasons).

Patrick Lichty
Patrick Lichty (b.1962) is a technologically-based conceptual artist, 
writer, independent curator, animator for the activist group, The Yes 
Men, co-founder of the virtual performance group, Second Front, and 
Executive Editor of Intelligent Agent Magazine. He began showing 
technological media art in 1989, and deals with works and writing that 
explore the social relations between us and media. Venues in which 
Lichty has been involved with solo and collaborative works include the 
Whitney & Turin Biennials, Maribor Triennial, Performa Performance 
Biennial, Ars Electronica, and the International Symposium on the 
Electronic Arts (ISEA).

He also works extensively with virtual worlds, including Second Life, 
and his work, both solo and with his performance art group, Second 
Front, has been featured in Flash Art, Eikon Milan, and ArtNews.
He is also an Assistant Professor of Interactive Arts & Media at 
Columbia College Chicago.

Joanne McNeil
Joanne McNeil is a writer who has covered the intersection of technology 
and culture for over a decade (back when there was a distinction.) As 
Editor of Rhizome.org, she oversees all content published on Rhizome 
News and the Rhizome blog. She commissions and edits features on art, 
digital culture, new media, and gaming. She writes about a range of 
subjects including augmented reality, copyright policy, the future of 
publishing, and robotics. Her writing has appeared in Modern Painters, 
Wired UK, The LA Times, the Paris Review Daily, The Boston Globe, n+1, 
and other web and print publications. Previously, she founded and edited 
the blog The Tomorrow Museum. She studied economics at George Mason 
University, where she was a University Scholar. She met the Philip K. 
Dick android before it lost its head.

Hrag Vartanian
Hrag Vartanian is editor of Hyperallergic and a member of the Triangle 
Arts Association board.

He's a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and art critic who has written 
extensively about street art, performance art, the internet and issues 
of multiculturalism. He maintains a tumblelog notebook, called “A 
Brooklyn Art Critic’s Notebook.” He tweets a lot.

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