New Aesthetic // OOO // Future of Things

It’s very gratifying to see how the #newaesthetic discussions are popping and percolating across the networks. There’s something to it, I think. Specifically the observations that something here under the New Aesthetic rubric is worth considering, thinking-through, working-towards.

What is that *something? It is perhaps an aesthetic thing. Perhaps it is symptomatic of the whole algorithmic life thing. Perhaps quite a good bit of articulate insights and cleverly stated things by some smart fellas. Also, perhaps those fellas having the *gumption to get up and say some things in a highly entertaining way. Perhaps it’s the thing of a bit of well-deserved very vocal network meme pot-stirring. Certainly some combination of all of these and likely more, you know..things.

Giving a name to an observed phenomena to muster hunches and instincts and observations and focus the meaning-making of things helps to organize thinking around it. That’s the upside.

The downside is that the thing sort of reifies in a way that isn’t always helpful. Or, you know — when things get a bit too academic. Too yammery..less hammery.

Another downside? The art-tech wonks claiming they’ve been doing it all along — of course they have..of course they have..It’ll get worse when it gets theorized as an aesthetic. Then it’ll get all ruined. An aesthetic about the cultures we live in? How do you get to such a thing? Do you use a really tall ladder?

And there’s some linkage to the #OOO // Object-Oriented Ontology world. Ian’s book Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing points towards the inexplicable (as of yet) dark matter // God Particle // elusive ionized Bogoston particle behind it all, I suspect.

The questions that loosely link #OOO // New Aesthetic // Future of Things in my mind are still quite loose and inarticulate. THere’s something amongst them if only because they each point to “things” as having a sort of uncanny role in our networked world. They’re idiotic things, like Siri and algorithmic Cows. They’re the Long Follow Droid. They’re P.K. Dick style Dazzle Camouflage .

I’m trying to nail down the un-nail-downable. Clarity comes whilst in the middle of a night cycle when I’m utterly convinced of my lucid train of thought, which inevitably disappears into a “what? that makes *no sense” recollection after putting the bike away. But here goes..Questions that somehow wrangle these things:

* What are the ways our things of (presumably) our creation begin to express/articulate themselves in unexpected and weird ways? What is the catalyst for these differently animated, chatty things? Sensors? Networks? It’s been done before — talismans, tea leaves, idols, urns. We talk to thing and let them talk back to us, guide us from beyond. What different now? A bathroom scale that tweets your weight. Plants that yammer for water. I tried to figure this out a fistful of years ago when I wrote a short essay called Why Things Matter (The blog post was called A Manifesto for Networked Objects.) I’m not much further along in understanding why, but I think Alien Phenomenology is helping.

* What are these new things? They seem to be articulate enough to express themselves across the digital-physical barrier, in whatever way, with whatever assumptions one might make about the capabilities of the network+algorithms+human+imagination to produce collectively. When architecture expresses digital sensitivities in a physical way, should we be rolling our collective eyeballs at the irony? Or take it as a weak signal of systemic brake pads weeeing and screeching?

* Something is going on in the world of bespoke things, I think. Things made that capture sensibilities that are far away from what can be made en masse. What is that something-going-on? Is it an aesthetic? Is it new again? Is Kickstarter (uh..) equally #newaesthetic and #thefutureofthings an indicator that massively made is old fashioned and highly particular // nearly custom // curated is fun again?

* Things that live in the networked age and with the sensibilities and expectations we have now for what things are capable of, suggest something new is going on. Drones, wondering, autonomous, robotic vision (absent HAL-like autonomous / artificial intelligence), bots, droids, listening things. That’s weird. It’s uncanny. Unsettling and seductive all at once. Look at that droid following that dude. He can’t get away. I mean — if it’s lugging crap for me, cool, I guess. If it’s following me like a hungry, zealous, huge, disgustingly fast man-eating Possum..not so cool..

I think the #newaesthetic is best left as it is for the time being. A simmering stew of lightly curated matter scrolling by with a giant *shrug across James’ New Aesthetic Tumblr. Inexplicable, by definition. Lightly joked about. Sought out, hunted for, skinned and stuffed and mounted on the Tumblr by the rogue curious.

Please, don’t make me throw wet cabbage at you. It’s the symptom of the algorithm. It’s what comes out of the digital-political-economy of cultures that live by networks and the machinary (soft/hard/hashtag-y) that underpin it all. All this #newaesthtic #ooo #futureofproduction stuff is the excess. The unexpected, unplanned for result. It’s the things that happen without one self-consciously *going after* #newaesthetic / object-oriented ontological / future of network connected things sensibilities.

You can’t force this one. You can’t “do” New Aesthetic. It’s a Zizekian-Lacanian symptom of the networked world smushed up with overzealous design-technology and real aspirations to get things done. It’s horrifyingly beautifully unappeallingly seductive. It’s the nostril that must be picked. It’s the *shrug of bafflement upon seeing connected porn vending machines on a Lisbon Alto Barrio street corner with a screen built-in for watching right there. It’s what results from kooky, well-meaning stuff that gets connected, gets digital and gets inexplicable and comes out weird.

5 thoughts on “New Aesthetic // OOO // Future of Things”

  1. Great, great video. And nice to see someone picking up on the OOO thread (though your link to my post on Creators Project is broken at the minute). For me I think one of the key ways to proceed is close readings: attention to how these New Aesthetic objects actually work has to be the first step towards speculatively imagining them. I’m starting to try to do that here:

  2. A random thought.

    A guy runs down a path and a robot cart follows along after him, keeping pace and matching his every twist and turn. The future is here. But something nags me. I want the runner to stop to see what will happen. I can just image 10 years from now thousands of people in airports constantly being bumped from behind by their iSuitcases because the damn things follow too close and can’t break and stop as quickly as a person can. On the dirt path the mad in running down? Forget about it. The man could come to a stop in a few steps. The cart would skid right over him. It is pretty nifty though.

    Another thought.

    Is lonelygirl15 an part of the new aesthetic? A fictional person living online. Lonelygirl15 was always intended to be outed I think. It was created to be entertainment. It was inevitable that people would catch on. But what about those people out there who are living secret lives on Facebook? It’s a little more difficult that it used to be to set up alternate identities on the internet but not impossible. Imagine a false identity spread across the internet. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all of them linked and sharing information on an imaginary persona. Are police posing as 13 year old girls trolling the internet for pedophiles part of the new aesthetic?

    I’ve been reading about the new aesthetic for a little while now and I’m still trying to get what it is. Show me a picture of a building with a digital looking brick pattern and I get that. The visual stuff is easier. The technical, the digital moving into out physical world. That’s part of it. But what about when we move into the digital world?

    I suspect part of the problem I’m having understanding the new aesthetic is that the level of dialog right now is taking place in very rarified atmosphere. It’s the Bruce Sterlings who are spilling their brains onto the internet and most of us top out at see Spot run.

    It is on the internet though, which, if I get this at all, makes the discuss about the new aesthetic a very new aesthetic kind of thing. In the past this kind of discussion would have taken place at elite symposiums. Papers would have been published in fancy scientific journals with limited distribution. Letters would have flown across the country, indeed, around the world in a heated debate that would have lasted for years before the New Aesthetic was nailed down. Eventually it would work it’s way down to the see Spot run level of discourse and the rest of us would read about it in Time Magazine, nicely pre-digetsted for our tender sensibilities. Now it’s happening on the internet in damn near realtime. We are seeing it in it’s rough, embryonic, highfaluting phase and we are befuddled, but fascinated. The process also seems to be incredibly accelerated as the discourse spreads far and wide at a digital pace. How very New Aesthetic.

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