I really enjoyed the discussion on aesthetics, and the Danto reading really helped to pull it all together. It also made me ponder many things; luckily for you, I only remember a few:

ICT4D

Many moons ago I stared at a blinking cursor (now there’s an aesthetic expression!) desperately praying for some coherent thought to flit by so I could pin it to The Statement of Purpose. One of the not-so-coherent thoughts that kept popping up was something like “ICT4D should be pretty too…because it affects how people engage with it.” So the notion of aesthetics as a matter of ethics hit home as “Bingo; that’s it!”

Aesthetics is to surfaces as body language is to human beings. Very few people merely listen to what you say, and act on that alone. What you say will always be mediated by how you said it. The medium is the message. I wonder now if that isn’t partly why younger people are more likely to blame technology for a failing, while older people are more likely to blame themselves. Apart from having grown up with more technology, they grew up with particular forms of technology – tech you could put in your pocket or customize as a fashion item; or flat, black minimalist PC forms that practically apologize for taking up too much space. Contrast that with the large, standalone, mini-edifices of the older mainframes; or interfaces that required you to talk their language; or PC forms that were white or bright and showy and took pride of place in the household. What conclusions would you draw?

Mr. Bennett

I’m not sure if the timing works out (having to toggle your wi-fi every 30 seconds seriously cuts into Googling rigor) but if Jane Austen was influenced by Wittgenstein, I now really understand what she meant when she described Mr. Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) as a philosopher. It’s one thing to find ironic humor in  having an atrociously silly wife and like-minded daughters, but to not do anything about it at all? I mean, she was like the proto – Jar Jar Binks. Now I understand he was actively pursuing non-action, since apparently that’s what philosophers do.

Abstractionist Life? (a.k.a Why the Abstract Expressionists Were Like the Dealers in Sub-Prime Loans)

One of my favorite stories is this pithy parable of the Credit Crisis:

The Parable of the Ox

If you don’t have time for pithy parables, the moral of the story is that things went awry because people started selling concepts and concepts of concepts at the expense of the real thing – much like the abstract expressionists did. I guess that technically makes Andy Warhol the Crisis.

Thing is, it’s one thing to abstract to that level in art, but I think we’re doing that, to our loss, with real life. And to illustrate, here’s a video one of my classmates posted of a toddler’s first experience with rain:

Little Girl Experiences Rain for the First Time

(Used here under educational fair use)

As charming as the video is (and shocking to my Jamaican sensibilities – to have your baby play out in the rain? You must be mad!), I couldn’t help but contrast the baby’s first hand engagement with the all the camera phones trained on her. That’s pretty much how we enjoy things these days: through a screen, attempting to capture for posterity a moment we didn’t actually get to experience ourselves – we were so busy recording it.

P.S. I doubt that link on Jar Jar Binks really gives you a true appreciation of the character, but it does allow me to go into a mini side-rant about the “allegations of racial caricature”: Wha? I might need to watch his appearances again (riiiight; I’m not that much of a sucker for punishment), but in this case, I seriously suspect that the fact that people liken  him to a “Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit” etc. says more about those people than it does about the character.

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