ENGL 4010: Aesthetics Slide Deck (SP23)

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<strong>Aesthetics</strong><br />

New Media Writing

anaesthesia, n.<br />

Modern Latin, < Greek ἀναισθησία want of feeling, < ἀν priv.<br />

+ αἴσθησι-ς sensation, < stem αἰσθε-, to feel, perceive.

aesthetic, n. and adj.<br />

Ultimately < ancient Greek αἰσθητικός of or relating to sense<br />

perception, sensitive, perceptive < αἰσθητός sensible, perceptible<br />

( < the stem of αἰσθάνεσθαι to perceive (see aesthesis n.) + -τός ,<br />

suffix forming verbal adjectives) + -ικός -ic suffix.

• languages are aesthetics<br />

• metaphors are aesthetics<br />

• senses are aesthetics<br />

• media are aesthetics<br />

• sensors are aesthetics

there’s no such thing<br />

as a synonym

earth<br />

globe<br />

Sol 3<br />

planet<br />

spaceship earth<br />

Gaia<br />

world<br />

blue marble

The swimming sea cucumber,<br />

Enypniastes eximia,<br />

sometimes referred to as<br />

the headless chicken<br />

monster. NOAA Office of<br />

Ocean Exploration and<br />


When humans encounter life-forms that are unfamiliar or strange<br />

Imbler<br />

to us, our instinct is often to distance ourselves from them. We<br />

gawk at how the blueprint of their body veers from our own.<br />

Sometimes they confuse or repulse us. Reports about the blue goo<br />

described it as “formless, faceless and limbless,” descriptors defined<br />

in opposition to ourselves, our faces and our limbs. Before we have a<br />

chance to know what the blue goo might be, we are told that<br />

whatever it is, it is not like us.

Imbler<br />

Sometimes this comparison with an alien world becomes more<br />

literal. One popular trope in discussing the deep sea is that humans<br />

know more about the surface of Mars than the ocean floor. But this<br />

comparison assumes mapping a place is all that constitutes<br />

exploration, and it minimizes the knowledge we do have of what<br />

lives on that surface.

One of the easiest ways to connect with creatures is through<br />

Imbler<br />

anthropomorphism—looking to organisms for reflections of<br />

ourselves. Anthropomorphism has had a bad rap as unscientific, but<br />

it’s a natural inclination, and, in my view, it can be protective. It<br />

prompts us to care about the killer whale mourning her calf, the<br />

elephants burying their family members with leaves and dirt, even the<br />

octopus fleeing an aquarium for the freedom of the ocean. To ignore<br />

or deny the ways we see ourselves in animals might enable our<br />

exploitation of them, such as through factory farms.

The painting appeals to us<br />

precisely because it both<br />

Ingold<br />

chimes with our experience<br />

of what it feels like to be<br />

under the stars and affords<br />

us the means to dwell upon<br />

it—perhaps to discover<br />

depths in this experience of<br />

which we would otherwise<br />

remain unaware.<br />

The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh (1889)

Dad Out At Night, Scarlett<br />

“Scootch” Rivers (2023)

Dad Out At Night, Scarlett<br />

“Scootch” Rivers (2023)

Ingold<br />

Of course there could be no experience of light without the<br />

incidence of radiant energy, or without the excitation of<br />

photoreceptors in the retina, but as an affectation of being<br />

—as the experience of inhabiting an illuminated world<br />

—light is reducible to neither. Nevertheless this<br />

experience is entirely real.

To witness the sun is to see by its own light, or, in the<br />

Ingold<br />

poetic language of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘if the<br />

eye were not sun-like, it could not see the sun.’ By<br />

‘sun-like,’ Goethe did not mean to imply a relation of formal<br />

eyeballs. His point was rather that the same sun that<br />

shines in the sky (the beacon) also shines from our eyes<br />

(the beam). It is what we see with.

For von Uexküll, however, the sun in its shining was to be<br />

Ingold<br />

understood not as a physical entity but as a manifest<br />

presence in the world of phenomena. And in this sense, just<br />

as the eye, as Goethe had observed, can see only by virtue of<br />

its correspondence with the sun, so the sun we perceive in the<br />

sky, and that lights the world of our experience, can exist only<br />

through its essential correspondence with the eye.

Ingold<br />

Van Gogh, then, is not just painting stars. He is a star-struck<br />

painter: he sees, and paints, with their light. This is why the<br />

stars can be at once infinitely distant and yet touch the soul.

Laudato Si’<br />

The bishops of Japan, for their part, made a thought-provoking observation:<br />

“To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live<br />

joyfully in God’s love and hope.” This contemplation of creation allows us to<br />

discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us, since<br />

“for the believer, to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a<br />

paradoxical and silent voice”. We can say that “alongside revelation properly<br />

so-called, contained in sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in<br />

the blaze of the sun and the fall of night”. Paying attention to this<br />

manifestation, we learn to see ourselves in relation to all other creatures: “I<br />

express myself in expressing the world; in my effort to decipher the<br />

sacredness of the world, I explore my own”.

Sensors observe, assess, synthesize, and manage<br />

Gabrys<br />

measurements of Earth processes. They typically operate<br />

as networks to detect, analyze, and actuate responses<br />

to environmental events.

Gabrys<br />

Yet, these sensor installations are not just ways of<br />

describing environments, they are also ways of bringing<br />

them into being as sociopolitical worlds, with often<br />

disparate power relations.

Gabrys<br />

These planetaries signal how practices of observation<br />

involve ways of experiencing that are also<br />

propositions for how to collectively inhabit a moving<br />


earth<br />

globe<br />

sol 3<br />

planet<br />

spaceship earth<br />

gaia<br />

world<br />

blue marble

[T]he Coronavirus outbreak is forcing us<br />

Maiello<br />

to collectively and seriously ask<br />

ourselves: what is a medium? The<br />

emergency, of course, cannot be<br />

reduced to this question, but doctors and<br />

scientists are telling us they cannot do it<br />

by themselves, that each of us needs to<br />

play our part. Playing our part today<br />

means that we also collectively<br />

process our being media.

Casey Boyle, March 2020.

Maiello<br />

It is necessary to underline that this pervasive capacity of media<br />

and media practices, which directly affect us, is not the result of the<br />

evil of technics or media (another pivotal issue which often becomes<br />

a source of general misunderstandings). The power of technics has to<br />

be ascribed, first of all, to the fact that media answer to a natural<br />

disposition of human beings, that is adapting ourselves to our own<br />

environment through technical artifacts, devices which are nothing<br />

more than bodily and mental extensions.

Maiello<br />

We will physically go back to the squares, the classrooms, the bars<br />

and cafes, with the awareness that living up to being radical<br />

mediators means opening up a new experimental stage in order<br />

to create an increasingly integrative mediality, which can never be<br />

completely substituted by technics. In the aftermath of this crisis we<br />

will be challenged to reintegrate our own mediality with the<br />

sociotechnical networks that are for the time being substituting<br />

for our embodied relationality.

<strong>Aesthetics</strong><br />

New Media Writing

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