Category Archives: Week 5

Beautiful and Sublime

Tianyi Cheng

It is easy for us to treat sculpture as fine art. However, facing a “sculpture” in CAD (Computer-aided design) work, we found it is hard for us to appreciate it as deeply as admire a real sculpture (on site, not through pictures). Hegel gave us a central claim of genuine beauty, which is the freedom and richness of spirit or Idea. He claims that beauty is found only in works of art that are freely created to bring before our minds what it is to be free spirit (Houlgate, 2014). In this sense, if CAD designer and sculpturer use similarly lofty purpose to create their works, they can express similar spirit and arouse our similar emotion. But it seems that things don’t happen like that. In addition, Hegel regards music and poetry as “more perfect art” than sculpture. He views poetry as the “most unrestricted of the arts” (Aesthetics, 2: 626). Because music and poetry, unlike sculpture, are not highly dependent on the materials that they are inscribed on. Hegel thinks they reflect the richer spiritual freedom. Using this logic, CAD work can even be viewed as higher art than sculpture, because they are not restricted on certain screen and can be watched beyond space and time. Digital age makes this claim of aesthetic like a paradox.

A CAD "sculpture"

                     A CAD “sculpture”

A real sculpture

                  A real sculpture

We can’t give a convincing explanation of our aesthetic consciousness with merely focusing on the content that artists want to express. Things similar in form can be distinct in kind. Kant applies “subjective universal” judgments to aesthetic. There are “beautiful” and “sublime”. He judges something as “beautiful” by noticing one’s well-designed form that reflects a purpose. In this sense, if the CAD work and the sculpture look identical and are created with same conceptions, we can say these two works are similarly purposive, in other words, similarly beautiful. But we might still feel that the CAD work lacks something. Kant’s another judgment is “sublime”. In Critique of Judgment (1790), Kant applied the sublime aesthetic to nature. The natural sublime removed the original intent of the author or artist as a factor in judging the “aesthetic power” or value of the object (Kelly, 1998). Kant thinks the sublime aesthetic has an unintended effect on its audiences. I think this concept is similar to L Winner’s “unintentional side-effects” that are carried by medium (Winner, 1997). Also, Kant’s emphasis on the value of natural object is similar to what McLuhan wrote in 1955: “The new media are not bridges between man and nature; they are nature…” (Czitrom, 1985) I think audiences of the CAD work lose the feeling of “sublime” which is carried by certain natural object, or certain media. Neil Postman’s reinterpretation of McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” is that “embedded in every tool is an ideological bias, a predisposition to value one thing over another.” (Postman, 1993). When we watch sculptures, we not merely consciously interpret them (we act on them). At the same time, the special functionality of the medium (stone, metal, plaster or screen) also take effects (We are acted on by them).

What causes the loss of “sublime”? Both the “metal” and the “screen” need a historical perspective to investigate, which is too complicated to discuss here. It is possible that from the inscription to stone or metal, we get a sense of the history, or some human experiences that thay transformed to “amplify” certain feeling. Georg Simmel believes art creations are not exclusively from artists’ insights. It is, rather, something passive and secondary, and reflects a kind of blend of artistic individuality and a given alien entity (Salem, 2012). He comments that modern art “arouse blasé attitude and superficiality” (Frisby, 1994), not merely because of the content, but more importantly, the new pattern in which they are exhibited and spread. He claims that the way of artistic productions and consumptions make arts more like collective creations rather than unique masterpieces. He also states that in this context, general genres replace the characteristic style of great masters. Indeed, CAD works reflect what Gitelman said: “matters of consensus within a community of like-minded” (Gitelman, 2008). The pre-seted applications in CAD softwares do create what Simmel calls “typical stylization of images”, which he regards as the resource to empty cliches (Frisby, 1994). This “absent presence” influences aesthetics in an significant way.

Works Cited

Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T.M. Knox, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975)

Chandler, D. (1995). Processes of mediation. Processes of Mediation. Np, nd Web.< http://www. aber. ac. uk/media/Documents/short/process. html.

Czitrom, D. (1985). Media and the American mind from Morse to McLuhan. México.

Frisby, D. (Ed.). (1994). Georg Simmel: critical assessments. Psychology Press.Gitelman, L. (2008). Always already new. Media, history and the data of culture.

Houlgate, Stephen. 2014. “Hegel’s Aesthetics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Kelly, Michael (ed). 1998. Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Volumes 1 and 4. NY: Oxford University Press. P326

Salem, A. (2012). Simmel on the Autonomy of Social Forms. Sociologija. Mintis ir veiksmas2(31), 1392-3358. P19

The Text and the Digital Media

Estefanía Tocado

Last semester I was asked a very simple question that is not that simple to answer:  Why read in the 21st century?  After thinking about it and researching about the topic, I decided to approach the question in a very positive way.  So my thesis was that literary reading was going to be implemented by new technologies, such as tablets and digital media.  However, my professor disagreed, postulating the following affirmation:  “Your approach is interesting.  However, in the age of the reader, according to Foucault the number of readers is decreasing every year without distinctions of age, gender, and ethnicity, despite of the emergence of digital media.”  His answer left me quite unsettled as well as rethinking the fracture between what has been understood as belonging to high culture, for example books, in opposition to visual media thought to be part of low culture.  Régis Debray in his essay:  “What is Mediology?” proposes the necessity to cut down the walls that separate forms that are considered to be higher (religion, art, politics) from the domains of what is considered lower (materials, signal carriers, transmission channels) to integrate technology as part of our culture and not anti-culture (32).

Also, Marshall McLuhan affirms that “the medium is the message” because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.  The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association (4).  He also asserts that, before electric speed, for many the message was the content, however, (…) the effect of the medium is made strong because it is given another medium as “content” (5,9).  He uses the example of a movie based on a novel or a play or an opera, but the effect of the movie form is not related to its program content.  The “content” of writing or print is speech, but the reader is almost entirely unaware either of the print or of speech (9).  Therefore, if the reader is not aware of the differences between print or digitalization as well as differences in speech, I still keep trying to understand why the interest in reading is decreasing every year.  James W Carey affirms that the appearance of the telegraph modified and challenged the ideology of its time, so maybe that is exactly what needs to be done regarding literature and its accessibility in the digital world (4).  Pierre Bourdieu asserts that there are three forms of cultural capital:  the embodied state in the form of long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body, the objectified state in the form of cultural goods (e.g. books, dictionaries), and the institutionalized state which confers original properties on cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee.  If books are the representation of the objectified state and literature is as an extension of this perception, maybe the only way to repair the fracture between the printed book and its digital counterparts is by erasing the symbolic value of the printed book and the cultural value added to the act of reading directly from a printed book instead of doing it digitally.  If the medium is the message and the social and cultural symbolic implications of a book allow the integration of digital media as a path to implement the number of readers, then a first step towards the blurring of the division of high and low culture would be dismantled in favor of promoting literature in any of its representations.


Works Cited

Bourdieu, Pierre. The Forms of Capital. “Ökonomisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital.” in Soziale Ungleichheiten (Soziale Welt, Sonderheft 2), Ed. Reinhard Kreckel. Goettingen: Otto Schartz & Co., 1983. 183-98. Trans. Richard Nice.

Carey, James W. “Technology and Ideology: The Case of the Telegraph.” Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. London-New York: Routledge, 1989. 155-177.

Debray, Régis. “What is Mediology?” Le Monde Diplomatique (1999): 32. Trans. Martin Irvine.

McLuhan, Marshall. “The Medium is the Message.” Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, Part I, 2nd Edition, 1964.

The Electronic Tablet: New Media for today’s consumer.

Alvaro Espiritu Santo Raba

We often hear the term “new media” being tossed around as if it was referring to electronic gadgets or marvelous new technologies out of the “Flash Gordon” movies.  The truth is that most recent technologies are developed from previous ones in order to suit each countries needs at the time. The ability to print books allowed people to share and consume knowledge easily, the telegraph permitted for shorter and faster messages to be transmitted to places who had been thought out as “unreachable” previously.  Printing also helped to encourage social  interactions with the exchange of new ideas that paved the way for new technological developments.

It is important to consider that there is no actual “story of media” from a technical o very literal definition.  Most of what we see in museums or read in books talk about the impact they had on society. But we never learn most of the back story, we never learn what drove this men and women to develop and improve this radical new ideas that changed the world they were living in.  After all,  Technologies; whether they be devoted to communication or not, are thus extensions of our humanity, not the cold, alien, external forces envisioned by the paranoia of bad science fiction. (Morrison, 1)  If we understand our media we can improve our understanding of mankind through out the ages.

The definition of new media depends intricately on the whole social context within which production and consumption get defined. (Gitelman, 15)  Take for instance the electronic tablets we have today.  Everyone probably thinks that Apple came up with the idea  for the Ipad (the first in this generation of electronic tablets) “out of thin air” thanks to the constant innovation the company is associated with.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. If we take a look back we can easily discover there were a lot of previous technologies that helped the Ipad find it’s way to retail stores.  The actual first tablet made by Apple was called the Newton Message Pad 100 and it looked more like a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).


Personal Digital Assistants were not around for a long time, and Apple kept developing new ideas and technologies that might help introduce an electronic tablet suited for today’s society.  After the introduction of the Iphone on 2008, Apple found the way to develop an interface that adjusted to society’s demands.  The product sold 170 million iPads since it’s release on 2010.  Such success has driven other companies to develop their own version of the tablet like the Galaxy Tab, the Xoom or the Black Berry Play Book. We should consider the fact that there were other tablets released before the Ipad such as Amazon’s Kindle or even some computer tablets developed by Microsoft.

So what was it about the Apple Ipad that made it successful? In my opinion, the Ipad became a hit because it changed the way in which we consumed media.  The introduction of “apps” was a cultural revolution because it allowed people to consume all kinds of different information (we can watch movies, read books, get news information) from the comfort of their own homes as well as the opportunity to develop their own ideas. Much like the telegraph or even the printer, this device allowed us to communicate efficiently  and shorten distances between each other. Like its ancestors, the tablet has clearly proven that  Media operate not only as subjects for historical inquiry, but also as the substance of all history. (Lang, 5)

There are no limits to what we can accomplish with technology.  Human Kind has been through a long journey since we first had tools made out of stone or a man first had a dream about reaching for the stars.  We are so technological advanced right know that we can accomplish almost everything we set our minds to.  Projects like the electronic tablet or even things like Google Glass maybe just the beginning.


Technology doesn’t define us as a group but we use technology as a proud achievement of what we are and what we can become. “We approach the final phase of the extensions of man -the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society” (Mc Luhan, Excerpts from Understanding Media, 1)


“The Long History of New Media,” Introduction to Park, David W., Steve Jones, and Nicholas W. Jankowski, eds. The Long History of New Media. New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2011.

James C. Morrison, “The Place of Marshall McLuhan in the Learning of His Time,” Counterblast, 1 (2001), NYU.

Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message,” (Excerpts from Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, Part I, 2nd Edition; originally published, 1964)

Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. Excerpt from Introduction