Tag Archives: Tim Arnall

The New Aesthetic continued – refuting Timo Arnall

I just found an article online that refutes the claims Timo Arnall makes about his “Robot Readable World” video that I provided a link for in a previous post.

According to Jay Owens, “Arnall’s video is actually a depiction of the debug output of machine vision, processed and formatted to be human-readable. It looks the way it does because programmers threw together a visualization to help them understand why the machines weren’t seeing what they were supposed to be seeing, or to confirm that they were seeing what they were supposed to be seeing when everything seemed to work. It’s an attempt to peer into the mind of an algorithm. Its aesthetic core comes from the same place as scrolling lines of program output in a VT-100 terminal or the bright orange of safety vests.”

In other words, Owens argues that the images in Arnall’s video do not depict robot perception and it is perhaps impossible for us to see how a robot sees.

Owens also discusses what he perceives as “an unavoidable mistake” at the core of the New Aesthetic that is “the multiplication of entities and agents” with our unintentional ( or intentional?) personification of robots.

Owens, Jay. “On the Leakiness of Surveillance Culture, the Corporate Gaze, and What That Has To Do With the New Aesthetic.

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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

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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