White, Michele. The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006.

I had almost given up on this book until I came to Chapter 4: The Aesthetic of Failure. This chapter discusses how the “Spectator’s engagement with net art aesthetics is informed by contemporary conceptions of art and new media” (White 2006: 87). The chapter cites the Oxford English dictionary’s definition of aesthetics as: the philosophy or theory or taste.” [White is one of the few scholars who make the move of consulting the dictionary to define the aesthetic.]

The chapter goes on to discuss how the field of aesthetics has been understood as a set of standards with which to judge art (based on visual, social, moral aspects). The chapter then goes on to discuss hot recent arguments insist that the social elements in the form of social and cultural meanings, values and beliefs also inform the domain of the aesthetic. “Aesthetic engagement is always an aspect of spectatorship since objects are understood through particular embodied positions, cultural values, beliefs and points of view” (White 2006: 87). White goes on to explain that people are also understood (judged?) by aesthetic criteria: “power is delivered to certain individuals through seemingly universal codes of beauty, which include particular body shapes and skin colors” (White 2006: 87).

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