Following Bruce Sterling’s Essay on the New Aesthetic, the NA is very much alive on the web. And there’s plenty for everyone to get their teeth into; what exactly I get my teeth into is an ongoing question.
From the start, the process of engaging with the New Aesthetic has been one of “OK, not that, then how about this”. As more people have become involved, it’s interesting to watch how each one folds the concept into their own practice and interests. Bruce deftly extrudes the “issues” with the NA as it is presented and considered now, which are pretty much the things I’ve been chewing on for the last few months. If all you’ve seen of the NA is a Tumblr or the Waving talk, you may be forgiven for thinking it’s all about the pretty pictures, but it’s not, and how we engage with the non-pretty aspects is what we do next.
I’m still working through this myself, but this post by Adam Rothstein in particular caught my eye, calling for a politics of the New Aesthetic. On the one hand I’m disappointed that the politics of NA, which have been there from the very beginning, and are for me a key component of the phenomenon, have not been so evident that those interested should think they have to start that “module” from scratch. On the other hand, I’m genuinely excited to see what results.
The other thing that needs to be joined up is how the New Aesthetic relates to Network Realism. The formulation of NR is a clear precursor to the wider scope of the NA, but more tightly focussed on literature. (The process, in case you haven’t noticed, involves thinking about how digital/networks effect one cultural product, and then expanding this to EVERYTHING.) NR remains a thing you can definitively point at and go: that’s the New Aesthetic as it occurs in literature (as opposed to in writing, which Russell covers here). But is it more than that / is it an analysis that can be applied to other things?