New Technologies and Lyotard's Aesthetics

Literaria Pragensia 16 (32):14-35 (2006)

Ashley Woodward
Dundee University
One of the less-appreciated modalities of Lyotard’s rethinking of aesthetics is a consideration of the way that technologies, and in particular information technologies, reconfigure the nature of aesthetic experience. For Lyotard, information technology presents a particular problem in relation to the arts and aesthetic experience. When art uses communication technologies themselves as its matter or medium, the “traditional” model of aesthetic experience becomes problematised. Lyotard argues that this is the case because information technologies determine or “program” a conceptual meaning in advance of an aesthetic experience. Therefore, we no longer have a situation of the “free play” between sensible forms and concepts that constitutes the aesthetics of the beautiful for Kant. Lyotard argues, however, that this decline in aesthetic experience as traditionally conceived need not be understood negatively: rather, it may be seen positively in so far as it furthers experimentation with materials. This chapter concludes by highlighting the positive potentials Lyotard sees in what may now be termed “new media arts,” but also indicates the limitations in Lyotard’s analysis – delimited in part by the theoretical models of information and communication he employed – and suggests directions for further research into new aesthetics from the bearings Lyotard has given us.
Keywords Lyotard  new media art
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