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Bruce Sterling on the New Aesthetic

Apr 15, 2012

Bruce Sterling on ’the New Aesthetic,’ the nascent, swirling, London art-nerd movement that’s making stuff that sort-of brings the digital and physical worlds together. Stuff - kinda - like - these. Robots, machine-readable vision, Twitter bots; sitting at the interface between the humanistic and the mainframe.

Does it make any sense? Will it have any kind of lasting influence? Lord knows, but I really like Sterling’s views here (highlighting my own):

However, this is a pressing New Aesthetic problem, maybe the core problem at the root there. The bandwidth is available, the images are there, and the robots and digital devices get plenty of look-in. Where did the people go? Where is the aura, where is the credibility? Are robots with cameras supposed to have our credibility for us? They don’t.

We’re not going to be able to gloss over this gaping vacuity by “making the machines our friends.” Because they’re not our friends. Machines are never our friends, even if they’re intimates in our purses and pockets eighteen hours a day. They may very well be our algorithmic investors, but they’re certainly not our art critics, because at that, they suck even worse than they do at running our economy.

If machine vision was our pal, then we wouldn’t need James Bridle [one of the New Aesthetic’s main communicators] to assert that for us. We’d have a Bridlebot, a Googleized visual search-engine that could generate as much aesthetics as we want. That won’t happen. Why not? Because it is impossible. It’s as impossible as Artificial Intelligence, which is a failed twentieth-century research campaign, reduced to a sci-fi conceit. That’s why the “New Aesthetic” isn’t about “robot vision” from “digital devices,” even when it claims that, as a rhetorical gesture to grant itself some aura.