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The problem with perpetual newness (The New Aesthetic)

The problem with perpetual newness (The New Aesthetic)

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Published by Marius Watz

Response to Bruce Sterling's first essay on The New Aesthetic, written for The Creators Project blog, April 2012.

Response to Bruce Sterling's first essay on The New Aesthetic, written for The Creators Project blog, April 2012.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Marius Watz on Nov 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs

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Marius Watz
 
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The problem with perpetual newness
Written for the Creators Project blog, April 6, 2012.
My take on the New Aesthetic?
On immediate reection I’d say “good job” and “go easy on the drones”.But inevitably there is the jaded voice in the back of my head wanting to snarkily ask, “What took you solong?” Not “you” as in the particular group of people who curate and promote the New Aesthetic meme, but“you” as in (Western) society at large, the technology-addicted masses who want their Facebook (MTV, notso much) and smartphone bliss, yet manage to be continually surprised by the not-always-pleasant byprod-
ucts of their addiction.
There really is no excuse for being technoculture illiterate if you’re under 40 and living in the Western world.You can plead ignorance of the technological specics, but not of the cultural effects produced by the gad-gets and interfaces that have invaded your life. Technology is not something that happens to other people,nor can you escape it by hiding out in “the humanities.” To be human is to be technological.Lacking a ubiquitous and intuitive understanding of the complex interactions between technology and hu-man culture, sources like the New Aesthetic (NA) become golden. NA is an attempt at diagnosis of the mostrecent mutations of the human condition, a difcult task best attacked obliquely and from the ank, withsubtle observations rather than head on with manifestos (which are not very New Aesthetic, by the way).NA is part meme, part techno-ethnography and part Tumblr serendipity. Its art is juxtaposition: If we putthis next to that and this other thing, surely a new understanding will emerge. And you know what? It workssurprisingly well. Whether that success is the product of brilliant curation or the result of feverishly sign-deciphering minds scanning image after image for clues that might not be there is academic. If it works, it
works.
The “New” part is deceptive, however.
Most of what NA offers up for examination is not all that new.Technologies like machine vision and geo-location are old by most standards. What is new is their integra-
tion into our lives to the point where we are bringing them to bed. Smartphone habituees will think nothing
of installing a sleep-tracking app and putting their phone on the mattress, where accelerometers will pre-sumably make sage observations about your quality of sleep. This is the new Aesthetic—human behavioraugmented by technology as often as it is disrupted. The New Aesthetic is a sign saying “Translation ServerError” rather than “Post Ofce”. The New Aesthetic is faces glowing ominously as people walk down thestreet at night staring at their phones—or worse, their iPads.We need NA like we need weather vanes warning us of oncoming storms, because tech-driven culturalinnovation has a nasty habit of becoming an inevitability with little regard for personal preference or even
legal precedence. Once conceived of, or even just scribbled on a napkin during a drunken startup crawl, it is
as though they might as well always have existed.

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