[NetBehaviour] Reflections on the _New Aesthetic_

Bishop Zareh xchicago at gmail.com
Fri Apr 20 09:42:04 CEST 2012

I posted this to the New Media list, thought I should CC it here.

This is my .02 on Sterling's article and SXSW talk:

Re: New Media v New Aesthetic

The "New Aesthetic" sounds very close to "New Media" but he (Sterling) does a lot to differentiate the two. There are lots of things he says that are spot on jodi or hi-res or mk12, but he does identify a few key differences.

For instance, while he calls the New Aesthetic a "gaudy … heap," but the words in-between are "a gaudy, network-assembled heap." Few of the New Media artists approached crowd-sourcing. Social media was not even a term during the New Media era. In those days we would have said "network-connected," but even that seldom referred to real-time networked connections, let alone network-assembled. 

He does say, "It is generational," and New Media was also generational, but they are different generations imo. He really draws the point out with "Most of the people in its network are too young to have been involved in postmodernity." New Media on the other hand was influenced by things like The Simpsons, a stark literary example of post-modernism and a TV show. These days, the Reality Television genre is much like ghost of post-modernism, the apparition left after post-modernism's self-referential death. And Reality Television is far from the hip new trend among teens. No television program is popular at all among teens.

Bruce also devotes an entire paragraph to distance the New Aesthetic from 8-bit and another to distance it from the "glitch-hunt." In both cases, he basically says that while the New Aesthetic may be messy, it also "manifest a friendlier attitude toward non-artistic creatives and their works. It would be kinder with non-artists, at ease with them, helpful to them, inclusive of them, of service to them." 

Hi-res and others definitely do fit the New Aesthetic on this level, but most New Media artists do not. I think he is suggesting that New Media needed sanded down, as you said, but that the polish of the New Aesthetic comes more from inclusion, connectedness and transparency, than from the glamor of high-end traditional media. I think he is saying that the New Aesthetic is messy human and that New Media was messy digital.

And he has a point, global culture has been fetishizing machines for almost 80 years and computers for 20; maybe it is time to fetishize humanity and consciousness.

On Apr 20, 2012, at 2:04 AM, Alan Sondheim wrote:

> An 'aesthetic' references both ideology and connoisseurship and the 'new 
> aesthetic' has constantly occurred in transformation, given the dubious 
> notion of 'progress' in art which dominated at least until the splatter of 
> postmodernism. Glitches have always been part of things - that's clear 
> from Nam June Paik or the three measurements of Duchamp, but glitches 
> today reference cohering systems and their cracks. IRC's maybe the best 
> parent example here w/ netsplits.
> If pomo did anything it opened up a kind of plurality (outside the post- 
> Fordist economics and pomo geographies etc.) and the fissuring of any 
> totalizing ideology (bad bad Badiou). So why _this_ new aesthetic as 
> opposed to for example, On Kawara, Jodi, mez, Duchamp, Mozart, Potocki, 
> Sterne; you can go diachronic/synchronic on just about anything anywhere.
> Maybe I just hate the straitjacket of definitions which is also a kind of 
> branding, with all the theoretic-corporate panache that implies.
> - Alan
> ==
> blog: http://nikuko.blogspot.com/
> email archive http://sondheim.rupamsunyata.org/
> web http://www.alansondheim.org / cell 347-383-8552
> music: http://www.espdisk.com/alansondheim/
> current text http://www.alansondheim.org/rk.txt
> ==
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