Tag Archives: robots

Keeping Up Appearance … with the Digital Age!

When researching I have noticed that most of the literature on the New Aesthetic, which discusses the blurring of the reality-virtuality boundary, only focuses on the humanisation of technology – robots designed to be similar to humans by learning to drive cars, to recognise faces, to communicate, etc.

There is a flip-side to this, however, which is the technologization of the human – humanity’s desire to be like technology. One of the best examples I can think of for explaining this point is the use (or, overuse rather) of Auto-tune and digital manipulation in pop music production. In the music industry, pitch correction (heavily used by Cher and popularised in her song, ‘Believe’ (1998)) and speech synthesis (Stephen Hawking uses speech synthesis to communicate) could be viewed as examples of not only how humans attempt to be like technology, but how humans (especially with auto-tune) attempt to keep up with the sonic, crisp perfection of the digital.

Furthermore, it could be argued that the increase in cosmetic surgery, the use of botox and other cosmetic enhancements is concurrent with the availability of High-Definition TVs, Retina Display, etc, which is another example of how humans are attempting to keep up with the digital. Although some celebrities are being digitally enhanced for magazine covers to meet the high-definition standards of the digital aesthetic, they are also transforming their bodies physically to be like their digitally flawless images or alter-selves.

I think the New Aesthetic should not only show a uni-directional flow, but instead how the digital revolution is having a bi-directional impact on humanity and technology. Humanity has raised the bar on technology by attempting to make technology, human. Consequently, technology has raised the bar on us because rapid technological advancements have forced us to keep up with technology.

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The New Aesthetic continued …

In addition to my first post on the New Aesthetic, I would like to add Borenstein’s definition to the list and to provide a few examples that I find to be particularly interesting.

Greg Borenstein, in “What It’s like to be a 21st Century Thing,” [1] argues that the “New Aesthetic is not simply an aesthetic fetish of the texture of the images, but an inquiry into the objects that make them. It’s an attempt to imagine the inner lives of the native objects of the 21st Century and to visualise how they imagine us.”

In relation to how machines imagine us, I came across some cool videos while researching that offer an insight into this alternative perception of reality through the lens of technology.

How a robot sees you: http://thecreatorsproject.com/blog/this-is-how-a-robot-sees-you-exploring-machine-visions-eerie-aesthetic

Self-driving cars: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/01/ff_autonomouscars/all/1

For Borenstein, the New Aesthetician’s goal is to amplify “the particular frequency of ‘black noise’ these New Things emit.” Tim Arnall attempts to achieve this, as can be seen from the videos below.

Tim Arnall: http://www.elasticspace.com/

Light Painting Visualisations of Oslo’s Wifi Network: http://www.thecreatorsproject.com/blog/light-painting-visualizations-of-oslos-wifi-network

Edit:
Having said that, when watching the video of how a robot sees us, I can’t help but question: “What is new about this?” and “Where have I seen this before (many years ago)?”. Viewing how a robot views us actually reminded me of two of my favourite films: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and Predator (1987). As the release dates of these films show, this concept of machine-perception of reality has already been seen and is perhaps rather outdated.

Maybe Damien Walter is correct after all in saying there is nothing new about the New Aesthetic other than the fact that the technological tools we use have become deeply embedded in our daily lives.

[1] Borenstein, Greg. “What It’s like to be a 21st Century Thing”.

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