I believe that much of the weak com­men­tary on the New Aes­thet­ic is a direct result of a weak tech­no­log­i­cal lit­er­a­cy in the arts, and the crit­i­cal dis­course that springs from it. It is also rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a far wider crit­i­cal and pop­u­lar fail­ure to engage ful­ly with tech­nol­o­gy in its con­struc­tion, oper­a­tion and affect. Since at least the intro­duc­tion of the VCR – per­haps the first tru­ly domes­ti­cat­ed com­pu­ta­tion­al object – it seems there has been a con­cert­ed, soci­etal rejec­tion of tech­ni­cal under­stand­ing, where­in the atti­tude that “I don’t under­stand this and there­fore don’t like this and there­fore I will not inves­ti­gate this” is ascen­dant and laud­ed. This atti­tude man­i­fests in the low-lev­el Lud­dite response to almost every tech­ni­cal inno­va­tion; in the stig­ma­ti­sa­tion of geek cul­ture and inter­ests, aca­d­e­m­ic and recre­ation­al; in the man­age­r­i­al cul­ture of eco­nom­ic gov­ern­ment – and in the ele­va­tion of sleek, black-box cor­po­rate-con­trolled objects, plat­forms and ser­vices, from the iPhone to the SUV, over open-source, hack­able, com­pre­hen­si­ble and share­able alter­na­tives. This wil­ful anti-tech­ni­cal­ism, which is a form of anti-intel­lec­tu­al­ism, mir­rors the present cul­tur­al obses­sion with nos­tal­gia, retro and vin­tage which was one of the spurs for the entire New Aes­thet­ic project; it is bor­ing, and we reject it.

The New Aes­thet­ic and its Pol­i­tics | booktwo.org

Bri­dle pulls no punch­es and goes after art crit­ics who do not know their tech. I guess it is unlike­ly all of them will change their ways and so for the fore­see­able future we will have to repeat this argu­ment again and again.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.