Monday, March 13, 2006

Technology and its aesthetical dimension

For this essay I researched on technology and its aesthetical dimension.

Designing a physical space is interrelated to designing for people, their lives, and it implies reflecting on its critical and aesthetic roles 1

To this end, researchers have proposed that designers develop sensitivity to and control of aesthetics, for instance, by putting constraints on communications media 2

In 1958, Simondon introduced a new approach to technology3
He argued about the necessity for the individuals to defend themselves against the technical object to appropriate its aesthetic dimension. In fact, the existence of a human reality in the technical object being denied, only the aesthetic object seems to transmit human values. In general, the technical object has a function but does not express a concept. More specifically, individuals protect themselves against the technical object by reducing it to the status of being useful, and at the same time, paradoxically, they mystify the technological object by wanting it to be evil, powerful and dangerous e.g. Fritz Lang’s female robot character in the film Metropolis (1927). It seems that the artificial being that humans create in fantasy, they are afraid of, and either accuse it of destroying their lives or of only being a useful object without any aesthetic characteristics.

As much as Roland Barthes 4 tells us that the status of photography has changed from being purely technical, to being perceived as art, to finally modify the notion of art itself into a concept, it seems there is still an unjustified hierarchy among technical objects depending on their more or less common points with the artistic sphere. Simondon has denounced this unjustified imbalance between technical and aesthetic in the meaning sphere. However, we seem to work by oppositions: how could we justify a possible insertion of the technical into the meaning sphere while it is through this lack of knowledge that we can justify the ‘raison d’ĂȘtre’ of the aesthetic sphere? A study of the technical and its interconnections to the aesthetic sphere is necessary to generally understand the technological environment in which we live. We are indeed surrounded by technology and even if we choose to deny its human characteristics, we can still understand its implications.

The cultural theorist Paul Virilio has analyzed technology as a threat to collective memory and a ghost of an “integral accident”. He explains how a city can suffer from its conditioning to media, stating that technology becoming more and more mediatic can destroy real space to the benefice of real time provoking a sense of body lost, the body being delocalized. The evolution of technology is not so much an issue, but rather the fact that humans tend to deny the loss it generates 5

Pierre Levy on the other hand, who is more positive towards the impact of the cyber space onto our lives, proposes to not think of issues in term of the impact of technology on society, but in terms of understanding it as a collective project by acknowledging that we all are implicated in it 6

1Dunne, A. 1999. Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience and Critical Design. London: RCA Press.
2Gaver, B. 2002. Provocative Awareness. In Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 11 (3) p. 475-493.
3Simondon, G. 1989 (1958). Du mode d’existence des objets techniques. Editions Aubier. Paris.
4Barthes, R. 1981 (1980). Camera Lucida [La Chambre Claire], trans. Richard Howard, New York: Hill and Wang.
5Virilio, P. 1996. Cybermonde, la politique du pire, Editions Textuel, Collection Conversations pour demain.
6Levy, P. 1994. L'intelligence collective. Pour une anthropologie du cyberespace, Paris.

By Cati in personal research

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