Digital Aisthēsis: The Vectorialisation of Form (Plenary Speech)

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In ancient and medieval thought, aisthēsis was synonymous with perception and epistemology. During the Enlightenment, it became a focused study of beauty and harmony. By the beginning of the 20th century, and the Marxist and Freudian revolution in humanist thought, and the Dadaist, Futurist, Constructivist, and Surrealist revolution in the arts, aisthēsis was the central node in a network of socio-political concerns, including the sublimation of socially problematic energies, and the relationship of the image’s technicity to political imaginaries. In the second half of the 20th century aisthēsis became the driver of media inquiry into technologically altered political orders based on the effects of electronic media, such as non-linearity and remediation. In the 21st century’s critical media-ecological mode of thinking, aisthēsis assumes, once again, the function of ‘avant-gardism’: the digital reconfigures the structure of knowing and being.

Focusing on three forms of aisthēsis characteristic of the digital condition, this talk looks at the ways in which the digital re-orders – and in some cases automates – sensing, knowing, and being. These are: 1) machinic aesthetics; 2) the aesthetics of actionism; and 3) evidentiary aesthetics. Relying on concepts such as distributed agency (Verbeek 2011), plasticity (Malabou 2006), and organology (Stiegler 2013), phenomena like data streams, machinic decisionism, and multi-scale re-structuring, are analysed in order to reappraise the scope, dynamics, and performativity of digital aisthēsis in the context of vectorialisation (Wark 2019), which links data aggregation to human modalities of sensing-knowing-being.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2022
EventWhat’s the Matter with Form?: A Pluralistic Dialogue on the Notion of Form - Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany
Duration: 17 Nov 202218 Nov 2022


ConferenceWhat’s the Matter with Form?
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