Jones, Caroline A., and Bill Arning. Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art. 1st MIT Press ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press: The MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2006.
Sensorium aims to examine “the current mediated status of the percipient center of human consciousness, while also historicizing the present condition and delineating trace elements from our collecting past” (Jones 4). The term sensorium refers to the sum of an organism’s perception, the “seat of sensation” where it experiences and interprets the environments within which it lives. The short essays in this volume focus on variations in the sensorium across social contexts. Most importantly the kind of sensorium we are talking about here entails the relations between the body and electronic technologies. The editor, Caroline A. Jones argues that while our sensorium has always been mediated, over the past few decade, “the condition has greatly intensified” (Jones 5). She claims that this is “a moment for artists and other cultural workers to interpret, think, and reckon with the sense of our mediation sensorium (5). The argument of the book is that “embodied experience through the senses (and their necessary and uncessary mediations) is how we think” (5). The authors suggest that the world is explained and experienced differently depending on the specific “ratios of sense” that members of a culture share in the sensoria they learn to inhabit—perhaps the contextual and socially learned nature of sensation. Importantly, new media artists work to make the sensorium visible. Practicing new media artists “are not interested in having us disappear within a given apparatus. They work to surface the effects of technology, making the viewer question mediation even within the pleasure of media” (Jones 3). [This can indeed be used to support Wysocki’s definition of new media for the 21st century].
At one point in the forward the editor, Caroline A Jones claims that: The only way to produce a techno-culture of debate at the speed of technological innovation itself is to take up these technologies in the service of aesthetics. Aesthetic contemplation buys us time and space. Aesthetic practices locate how bodies are interacting with technologies at the present moment, and provide a site for questioning those locations “(Jones 2). Jones says this only to abandon the aesthetic. What is the aesthetic here? What questions can it pose? Once again I’m left wondering what work the notion of the aesthetic does here? Why can’t any treatment of the aesthetic be sustained? Why do authors proclaim its importance only to drop it the first chance they get? Why can’t they define or operationalize their notion of the aesthetic? Why can’t they acknowledge there are varied notions of the aesthetic and be more specific of how they are using it? What kind of communicative labor does mentioning the aesthetic achieve? Jones might very well know what she is talking about, but she cannot leave statements like this laying around unturned on the page. This is simply not good scholarship. But then again, I see this happening almost everywhere. Why do people to refer to the aesthetic but not define it? Or acknowledge which definition they are using and why? I know how difficult this is to do. But it must be done.