Toward an Aesthetics of New-Media Environments

Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics (2016)
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Abstract
In this paper I suggest that, over and above the need to explore and understand the technological newness of computer art works, there is a need to address the aesthetic significance of the changes and effects that such technological newness brings about, considering the whole environmental transaction pertaining to new media, including what they can or do offer and what users do or can do with such offerings, and how this whole package is integrated into our living spaces and activities. I argue that, given the primacy of computer-based interaction in the new-media, the notion of ‘ornamentality’ indicates the ground-floor aesthetics of new-media environments. I locate ornamentality not only in the logically constitutive principles of the new-media (hypertextuality and interactivity) but also in their multiform cultural embodiments (decoration as cultural interface). I utilize Kendall Walton’s theory of ornamentality in order to construe a puzzle pertaining to the ornamental erosion of information in new-media environments. I argue that insofar as we consider new-media to be conduits of ‘real-life’, the excessive density of ornamental devices prevalent in certain new-media environments forces us to conduct our inquiries under conditions of neustic uncertainty, that is, uncertainty concerning the kind of relationship that we, the users, have to the propositional content mediated. I conclude that this puzzle calls our attention to a peculiar interrogatory complexity inherent in any game of knowledge-seeking conducted across the infosphere, which is not restricted to the simplest form of data retrieval, especially in mixed-reality environments and when the knowledge sought is embodied mimetically.
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