On “Aesthetic Publics”: The Case of VANTAblack®

Science, Technology, and Human Values 43 (6):1098-1121 (2018)
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Abstract

This exploratory paper investigates the enactment of a number of “publics” in relation to a recent, ostensibly “technical”, innovation, namely, the nanotechnology Vertically Aligned Nanotube Array-black. In particular, we show how various representations of VANTAblack—as technical artifact, as an exclusive artist’s material, as an exciting coating for a mass-produced commercial product, and as an object of science communication—implicate different “aesthetic experiences”. We discuss these aesthetic experiences in terms of the enactment of four distinct “aesthetic publics.” We then consider the possible analytic value of the concept of aesthetic publics, not least in relation to the “opening up” and “closing down” of the potential debates that might attach to emerging technologies.

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