One thing that this discussion will attempt is to show the path towards the technosphere as a new discourse in the aesthetics of the age of digital currents. In this way various concepts of science, technology, and art are linked with a view to revising the notions of art, aesthetics, and the spectator. Certainly, the artistic usage of new the technologies and the specific current forms in which science and art are interlocked lead to diverse formulations of questions – of practical and formal, as well as conceptual and philosophical natures – to which only future developments will deliver answer. The technosphere as new “Aesthetics of the Digital” addresses several of these principle questions.
Beyond the metaphysical place of modal categories all forms of life become completely virtual: possibility, reality and necessity. The primacy of virtuality characterizes the ontology of the digital age. However, this condition arises from an epochal constellation of relationships among things in the order of thought. But the structure of the living object is setting a “hidden agenda” in an ultimate purpose of historical development. Instead of “a plan of transcendence”, into the contemporary philosophy of science Gilles Deleuze introduced the “plan of immanence” concept with its leading terms of nonlinearity, difference and desiring machines (Deleuze, 1994). Those new concepts are determined by the technosphere. From it derives the power of the digital illusion of reality itself as a construction process of virtual reality. Within the technosphere other virtual worlds have also been created beyond the classical metaphysics of reality and illusion. The fundamental problem is no more the cognitive-theoretical meaning of being in the constellation of the techno-scientific world. Actually, it is only important to know how to understand the emergence of event and from which perspective to consider all the changes concerning the prospects of “life” as the alliance of technosphere and biosphere in the forthcoming production of artificial life and artificial intelligence.
This aesthetics was born in the very heart of modern technology just as art itself originally emerged from a folding complexity of poiesis and techne (Paić, 2014). It is obvious, however, that technique belongs to the peculiarities of human activity within nature. Culture should appear fundamentally changed compared to the previous understanding of the world itself. “Experience” of the world as a matter of entity and its powers of imagination corresponds to art’s “illusion“. On the other hand, the disappearance of truth in favor of aesthetic works of art finally leads to the technosphere. Art beyond “art” is addicted to the media-art event that represents the “essence” within the technical development of the world. Martin Heidegger with philosophical concept of Gestell as the essence of technology gave a brilliant description of the metaphysical articulation of power. Directly derived from the essence of modern technology, it could be understood as something uncanny beyond the human interfaces. Hence, Heidegger articulated five basic conceptual elements. All of them were included in historical movements from modernism to the information age. With a reframing of the close connection of aesthetics, technology and power a whole new constellation of relationships between human and inhuman worlds emerged. These elements are essential in providing a new assemblage:
(1) dynamics refers to the realization of power;
(2) totality affected the rules of power to anything outside that environment and these effects lost their innocence and cannot be considered as “real”;
(3) imperiality derived from the nature of domination and is able to cancel out any possibility of exceptions and cases in their own environment;
(4) rationality implied that the human mind as computer recognizes the character of opinions in the withdrawn part of the power of execution;
(5) a planetary orientation that indicates in what circumstances power is no longer just “total” and focused on one country and one nation-state, but its limits are determined within the inhabited globe, like the atmosphere and the stratosphere, which means that the planet as a whole and its related images can be won in a “breakthrough” and thus neutralize any possible planetary opponents (Heidegger, 1997:16-25).
Let us see how to describe the essentials of our world today. The contemporary global capitalist economy is based on the digital immateriality of work and the related social connections. Certainly, from this perspective there is only one step to the abolition of binary oppositions: work and freedom, working time and leisure. Controlling the freedom of humans as biopower does not come from outside where we can detect a strong transcendent power owned by human characteristics and governing the enforcement of discipline and their punishment for non-performance of “plan” and “construction”. It seems that posthuman immanence controls the emergence of the whole system from within. Boris Groys, art theorist, ironically recalls a famous slogan from the early Soviet system of production when totally organized life was under surveillance by Party and State and had an extremely deep impact on the pressure derivinig from physical labor: “Comrades, sleep faster!” (Groys, 2009).
The difference between what Heidegger called the technique of the outcome of the new period of visibility and transitions in the upcoming world and technosphere, however, appears as the difference between two forms of aesthetic “experience” and “illusion.” Two forms of aesthetic “experience” and “illusion” provide two important ways in which the understanding of the digital world, human, language and art is revealed. These are also two forms of visual communication: analog and digital. The former is based on a mimetic-representational image paradigm and the latter on a cybernetic code of information. When the sign replaces reality, and refers only to other visual signs, interaction in the communication process indicates that the technosphere take place within the matrix of social relations of late capitalism. That’s the reason why we should start talking about an epistemic cultural turn: semiosphere occurs as mediasphere. In his provocative essay The Aesthetics of Disappearance, Paul Virilio wrote about accelerated changes in our techno-aesthetic environment. There are no more changes, but only speed and acceleration of transformation processes.
The meanings of the digital age are contextually determined and decoded within situation. Putting this proposition in aesthetic terms is to pose a question about the possible relationship between art and technology. To understand antinomies and paradoxes of the digital age and the notion of structure within reality from virtual events (uploading), it is necessary to show what was marked by the “ontological difference” between analogue and digital worlds (body, language, pictures). Why in digital communication does the main condition of the possibility of the process take place around the globe as the realization of a techno-scientific “experience” and the aesthetic “semblance” of the world? And finally, does it mean that we should discard the metaphysical distinction between binary oppositions that were decisive for the analog way of thinking? Furthermore, does it mean that we have to roam between the different spheres of spiritual life beyond the connection with the nation-state and its borders like some interplanetary nomads?
Triads of the current digital art world are:
(1) immateriality of works,
(2) interaction of participants in networked events, and
(3) simulation of reality as “illusioning” of virtual events in real time.
All three features are determined by the digital “ontology” of contemporary art. It has the character of “analytical and constructive thinking” because art has some quite other position in the age of technoscience. Contemporary debates on cognitive science and epistemology of information are closely tied to the distinction between analytical and constructive concepts of thinking. Informational ontology became influential after the cybernetic revolution in all areas of postindustrial societies. Let me note one remark on that matter. One of the leading philosophers of technology was Gilbert Simondon. His turn towards the contemporary meaning of technology came from the American cybernetic tradition. In that resource we can find many technical concepts, e.g. ”information“ and “communication”. But Simondon introduced not only the technical concepts into the ontology of information. On the contrary, he decided to think radically beyond the humanist tradition. The question about technology examines what went wrong with the emphasis on technology assumed as a metaphysical language for advanced postindustrial societies. Finally, he concluded that we have to aproach our conceptual patterns as a new way of thinking (Simondon, 2012b). Techno-aesthetics, therefore, is a part of the corresponding examination of digital communication based on objectified “experience” in vast virtual archives (files and databases). On this path of thinking, the “experience” comes directly into a collective experience of memory, or into the matrix of reproductive events in the network as an important reproductive activity of artificial intelligence. Heidegger claimed that our communication in the digital age must be a dynamic, total, imperial, rational and planetary exchange of information in the process of the becoming of the world as a power of the technosphere. The true subject of communication in the digital age is oriented in the reverse direction. It might be said that the posthuman information code generates the emerging new order in a complex relationship with mediating social needs, cultural lifestyles and corporeal desires, and not with technosphere as entropy of social relations in general.
1. Overlapping differences: analog – digital
What could be appropriated by the meaning of – technosphere? Understanding the concept is an attempt to clarify the frame produced producedindirectly through the analysis of the relationship of the new technologies and science with the ontological nature of cyberspace in view. Marshall McLuhan, in fact, in his own mediology introduced the concept of the noosphere. He implies by that a new complex of communication that transforms the world into a global village (McLuhan, 1996). The noosphere is a concept used by Teilhard de Chardin for the place of the human in the universe. In short, the technical exposure of life in modern civilization cannot be captured with old metaphor of knowledge as the Alexandrian library, but by positing a Gutenberg galaxy in the open space of information as an immaterial world of human communication. Physical space, a relationship between local and global, disappeared in networked cyberspace, and this is a new frame for planetary communication. Interface computer communication supersedes natural or physical proximity. Above all, cyberspace should be recognised as the product of the process of the realization of the virtual potentiality of technology transfer and storage of information (Capurro, 1998). What is maybe particularly important in the paradigm shift – from text to picture or letter to visual communications – seems to be a radical change in the fundamental metaphysical category of traditional ontology. Divine virtues and qualities, omnipresence, or eternity and immateriality, were virtualized in space which actually didn’t exist. Given the character and status of traditional modal categories, this concept of space can be viewed as unreal and illusory. The noosphere, however, cannot be equal with early modern ways of constructing the reality of pure reason. Already mentioned in McLuhan, any way to employ this concept has proved that the world of modern civilization has actually transformed Earth’s scope into something beyond celestial foundation. The change of physical space for the benefit of technological creation of an artificial area governed by mediality has moved towards the global networking.
The principle of technology lies in the enframing (the subjectivity of the subject). Thus, the essence of technology is deliverable information for the transformation of essence into energy. So, it is clear that the relationship between art and technology, subject and setting up state, was exposed to the far-reaching changes. It is no longer a matter of determinism and the first principle. The effectiveness of feedback is decisive. As a universal science of the technology era, cybernetics can be described as metatheory of logic of virtual events. Accordingly, the construction of events has a crucial role within the logic of this complex. The purposefulness of the process in the structure of technology changes the meaning of beings, Being and meaning of the essence of the human. Heidegger’s standpoint could be assumed as techniques from which we could finally leave the metaphysical understanding of the history and consequently the traditional ontology (Heidegger, 1954: 13-54). Information that enables communication is nothing more than a new word of cybernetics for the old concepts of metaphysics. We are finally entering space-time with the radical abolition of relational structures based on causality and purpose. If relations were historically determined by specific vertical central structures (God, ideas, substance, subject), as Jacques Derrida once said, then it is evident why cybernetics must abandon any possibility of divine providence and historical self-determination. The concept of the process of controlling the information exchange replaced a belief in Last Judgment. Indeed, the assembly is formed with a setup that everyone can switch from one state to another. When information was transferred to the constellation of transformation, the event would be the posthuman condition of artificial life (A-Life). Today, only techno-art, as productive complexity of information and communications technology, is performed within a virtual axiomatic in the sense of power, appliances and rule over nature and the world in general. Therefore, technology is operated just as a language acting-out in the process of communication. Language performs the condition of the possibility of interaction. It could be denoted as the agent-purpose of a new technical interactivity. Accordingly, it transcends natural inherited languages connected to the assembly of information and communication technologies. Language opens up the horizons of the world. Since the world has been transformed into a technical environment, language becomes a piece of apparatus (Heidegger, 2007, Gaffney, 2010).
If we keep in mind this great transformation in the core of ontology, then the differences between techniques and technologies which were deeply incorporated in everyday life require consideration of the question about the technical nature of thinking as computation, planning and construction. It should be said immediately that Heidegger did not strictly run to the end a new „ontological difference“. Our task should be determined by the introduction of this concept into the debate only because we have strengthened the difference between the analog and the digital era. Technique is referred in the analogue age of industry and machines in which assemblies of humans operate as subjects. But when we are preoccupied with an entire set of new information and communication technologies (computers), we are acting in a digital environment. Instead of changing nature (technique), we are witnessing a dramatic change of life (technology). One shouldn’t be surprised that today the fundamental question of philosophy and theology is no longer the question of being, God, world and human, but rather the origin and the end of “life” itself. Technique belongs to computer based thinking in natural sciences, e.g. mathematics and physics. Digital design, on the other hand, refers to the technology of the transfer of information. It is a feature of the computer method of generating reality. Technique was always tied to the analog system of nature, but technology intends to open the digital network order beyond the differences between nature and culture. Maybe a cybernetic concept of encoding information connects them with the new assembly. Without it, there is no possibility of future communications between related systems. At the same time, in Luhmann’s media theory, for instance, people do not communicate mutually, but operational systems and their social actors communicate for them (Luhmann, 1995). Technique is rooted in the presence of time dimensions as sequences of “now-here”. However, technology, quite in contrast to this, assumed a construction of time as well as over a number far in the future. In this way, the digital model appears with the primacy of the spatial dimensions of virtual reality over the openness of time in its three dimensions (past, presence and future). Actuality squeezes out past and upcoming things. We should add that in the digital age systems rule over people. It follows that everything becomes fast, dynamic and organized in total mobilization. Sociologists sometimes speak about the phenomenon of accelerating in disappearance, so one could argue that origin goes back to the essence of technique. Only in this way can we understand how the implosion of information might be an acceptable explanation of what is going on when in reality all leads to lose of memory. Digital oblivion in some respects obviously represents a dark shadow of the transformation in the remaining scraps of living memory.
What actually connects technique and technology? The answer lies in planning for the future as current affairs on the basis of a scientifically designed world. Therefore, within the technological and scientific assembly of opinions, at the beginning of the modern era, being was determined as measurement, calculation and planning. Quantifying nature and experimenting with it could be assumed as procedure of scientific appropriation of the artificial environment. It is not merely an external or inanimate artificial nature in traditional ontological categories. Therefore, there should be a link between the mind and the world, the image and the image of reality. Artificial intelligence within cybernetics emerged as a result of technoscience. What is, then, the ultimate meaning of this transformation for metaphysics in general? One could say in advance that it refers to the transformation of the concept of power and freedom. Western thinking has always been considered as an essentially technical thinking of humankind. When it comes down to a common denominator, it is about that what Heidegger called computation (Rechnen), and not reflexive thinking (Besinnung) or mythopoetic narrative (Heidegger, 1997). Generally speaking, demand for control systems and the environment has indeed decisive consequences for the concept of contemporary art. Heidegger clearly saw that the advancement of technology quashed the linear scheme. Maybe it is more important that we realize the methods and experiments produced from the essence of a new scientific approach to the world. Being becomes information, and relationships between entities might occur as assemblies in the communication process. What could be the condition of possibility of the assembly if a network event is nothing but transition from technique to technology? Technosciences can no longer be positive sciences of nature. Their main features were included in the design of artificial nature. With transformation of machine from its mechanical “nature”, a living machine becomes a kind of apparatus controlled by a cybernetic code. And since it is a part in which the interaction was replaced by the relationship between subject and object, it is obvious that cybernetics as a general science of systems management enable becoming of the world as artificial life and living machine.
Life could no longer be considered as linearity, suspense and causality in necessity of order. Hence, it follows that emergence of the case in the optimal control of replacing the one-off and the uniquen gave unexampled opportunities for further reconsideration. And furthermore, singularity in the complex environment of animate and inanimate becomes consequently a key concept of posthumanism (Paić, 2011). What was Heidegger’s most valuable contribution to the debate on the achievements and the limits of understanding life in cybernetics understood as a completed metaphysics? First, classical concepts of physics as a basic science of nature, such as energy, mass and velocity were replaced by notions such as biogenetics information within the power of the genetic structure of the organism. Thus, the genetic code information is associated with a new ontology and a new epistemology, with being and consciousness. The emergence of the new is no longer the result of a creative encounter created by eternal nature and immutable being. Instead, we should note that merging and splitting of the core or stem cells with another living organism produce an emergent and complex living condition. Biology as paradigmatic science of posthumanism testified to the extent of the event in that matter. So, it means that humans and all other beings necessarily appear as a “case” of the recombination of animate and inanimate, mind and machine. With the design of the synthetic life all previous methods that were widely accepted for processing the industrial ready-made objects disappeared.
If the natural language is no longer relevant for daily communication, then we should agree that only the binary code of a computer program determines future interactions in technosphere. This is also evident in the rise of pragmatic meaning of language in digital age. It all boils down to the handling and decoding of information in the user community. The programme becomes the know-how and system information outlook necessary for telematic communication. Therefore, the predetermined notion of temporary user community gained a ruling character of order. And eternity irreversibly disappeared in actuality protocols at any level of networking (Frankel, 2004). Indeed, we have seen that technique became the essence of modern science. Postmodern critique of knowledge shifted the main focus of investigation in a number of different directions. Classic humanist categories, e.g. substance, mind, causality and teleological purpose of creation the world were replaced with new pragmatic dispositives. Instead of them, very different approaches today govern the exploration of the mystery of Being as event. Tehnoscience and techno-aesthetics currently attempt to show something very constructive in essence, but it is merely attractive by tehnological intervention deeply inside the “nature”. The implementation of new technologies in the social and cultural mediascape is proceeding with extremely huge impacts on understanding the complexity of posthuman condition.
2. Technoscience and art
Recently, technosciences and the discovery of visualization successfully combine that what has been determined as natural/technical science and what was so far opposed to it as cultural/human sciences. The concept of technoscience was first used by French sociologist of science Bruno Latour and American anthropologist Donna Haraway in late 1970s (Haraway,1990; Latour, 1999). By this they implie d a paradigm shift in the understanding of the relationship between technology and science on the outcome of the modern era. Accordingly, the definition of technoscience in the operative sense of this word can hardly be more precisely determined. The reason is very simple. It doesn’t lie only in the claim that scientific practice depends on technological paradigm shift from a mechanical to a digital era. Rather, we must abandon all previous dichotomies between old and brand new paths in constructing the place for difference in the very core of the metaphysical framework. As the development of computer technology changed, so too the position, or relationship of the observer to the visual basic implementations changed for the great transformation in the meaning of traditional differences between theory, practice and production itself. So, experimentation, visualization, and simulation immersed in a change of concepts especially regarding the final purpose of this process. Since quantum physics, chaos theory and string theory, as well as the results of biogenetics in uncovering the relationship between the origin of life and its development in the surrounding world changed the concept of “de nature” in the natural sciences, it became clear that it would be impossible to separate technology from science and research. Objects of research are not neutral. Furthermore, the concept of nature can no longer be reduced to something outside of laboratories and ways of constructing objects. The technoscientific production of the world at the same time attempts to conceptualise the production/reproduction of life as artificial and to change rationality in the complex world of artificial intelligence. With the help of modern technologies, such as nanotechnology, robotics, genetic engineering, biogenetics new constellations emerge. Artificial intelligence appears as a product of the research into the complexity of artificial life. It cannot be denied that this could have unexpected consequences for further creative thinking. One of these consequences is evident in changing design notions. Creative design life stems from the virtual power of artificial intelligence, from the alliance of neuroscience, cognitive science and biogenetics (Reichle, 2003: 193-204).
We can explore technosphere essentially as the productive fold between technoscience and aesthetics. There are brand new sets of structural events and realities that possess a character of “experience” and “images.” The recently developing field of all kinds of aesthetics seeks correlations between technological practical skills (engineering) and the artistic creation of new objects. Production of new artworks still involves the creation and design of objects. In fact, strictly speaking there are no more any frontlines between art and design. As explained by the notion of technoscience, our conceptual framework was composed from principles and patterns contained in the deep ecology of mind. Especially after the reevaluation of the impacts inherited from epistemology of information, the pragmatic construction of reality in cyberspace today attempts to open the virtualities for advanced transformations in the structure of the pictoriality of image. Instead of the still existing prevalence of the concept of image and body from the phenomenological point of view, the development of interdisciplinary approaches in contemporary aesthetics moved beyond modern paradigm. Pictoriality of technical images formed by computer programme cannot be reduced to any familiar scheme from the history of art. The fundamental crux for all these aesthetic approaches is perceived as the bottom-up processes given by techno-scientific investigations such as artificial intelligence (AI). The evaluation aesthetic judgments through technoscience could trace the lines and curves far away from our modern perceptions on art as imaginary production of new objects. Image-science in this triumph of technoscientific conceptual tools just like “visualisation” and “transfiguration” try to conceptualise the place or gap in-between art, science and technology (Weibel, 1991: 205-248).
Sphere (Greek sfaira – ball, globe) originally was Greek understanding of the world indicating that perfection of form and materiality of fulfillment is circular and rounded. That is to say, this expression means a set of points in space equally distant from the centre of circle. In three-dimensional space geometric shapes such as spherical balls represent a visual projection of the celestial bodies and the planet. Speaking of spheres, we should notice a symbolic speech about material and immaterial bodies.
We know that the digital image, therefore, occurs as artificial life in real time and virtual space. So, it could be possible to make radical constructivist settings from the aesthetics paradigm shift:
(1) entity becomes a project of alternative worlds;
(2) there is no difference between “truth” and “illusion”;
(3) technoscience and its power of visualization of the world creates the space of virtual reality for art as aesthetic sphere of new information technologies and communication interactions;
(4) beauty is no longer an “illusion of” truth because there is no difference between sensitivity of the phenomenon and transcendental things-about-itself that allows the beauty of truth to shine in the activity of the subject;
(5) aesthetics in the age of primacy of technology over science designs or creates immaterial objects.
Technosphere? Is this concept just another name for aesthetic design in the digital age where everything is going on as becoming a virtual event in a network’s environment?
If we go one step further to examine this problem it is useful to show how contemporary art in dialogue with complex technoscience could answer this question. In the early 1990s, with the use of the World Wide Web as the universal medium of digital age, new opportunities for mutual interaction in the visual arts were created. Many theorists of new media in particular stand out as interactivity provided a key for digital communications and related contemporary art in a virtual space. British artist Jane Prophet created an interactive video installation on the network entitled TechnoSphere in 1995. The main idea was evident in the fact that digital interactive communication in the WWW network produced unintended consequences. It leads to a spontaneous “creation” of new image in the process of creating the illusion of digital image as a complex environment by the software research of artificial life. In this way, the interaction between human and machine that occurs within cyberspace was very different than in any mechanical projection. Digitalization of life introduced a profound change in the concept of body and machine. Interactions between two entities, which are apparently separated in the order of events of reality, in a virtual space produce something in-between. In this way, entirely new events and conditions emerged. This state of being-between machine and human attempts to mark the relationship between the technical and human. Embodied digital communication presupposes the elimination of the traditional understanding of the media as an intermediary in the process of transfer and exchange of information. Traditional media could no longer predict a further situation like a kind of digital advices, as we can see in Spielberg’s movie Minority Report. It seems to be justified to call new media – metamedia, as in Gene Youngblood’s new media theory (Youngblood, in: Rötzer, 1991: 305-322).
The installation by Jane Prophet refers to the crucial issues of modern communication: how exactly do bodies interact in networked systems? Keep it simple. Analog media such as radio and television are based on analytical thinking that practically excluded entire human sensibility. On the other hand, the new media attempt to establish an interactive artificial logic for participation in the creation of the event. Communication of the disembodied subjects/ actors supersedes physical boundaries of time and space. And this condition creates a new “body” in its virtual or immaterial image. In Greek philosophy since Plato it was called the picture, a reflection of reality (eikon), but today it seems that appearance of things (eidos) and illusion of appearances (eidolon) are two sides of the same coin. Particularly, in the digital environment of computer-generated reality it seems that a single state of being with its properties in objects and things becomes at once the illusion of what we use to call appearing because virtual appearance looks exactly like illusion of appearance (Schein).Therefore, we can no longer talk about beauty as transcendental appearance of beings in the sense that its appearance is pleasant in aesthetic phenomenon, and that the essence of beauty exists beyond the appearance. Aesthetics from digital perspective is generated from the world beyond this opposition. What does this mean?
The history of the notion of aesthetics points to the rise and fall of the idea of beauty as an object of art. Beauty is now “embodied” in the same phenomenon as the idea of beauty. Therefore, the appearance must always be apparent. Appearance of a semblance of reality leads to the disappearance of the difference between appearance and illusion, between “truth” and “illusion.” The technosphere should provide the aesthetic in the age of digital communication whose interactive powers design our world. Digital bodies as immaterial in virtual space couldn’t be denoted just like “virtual” bodies, because real bodies in the real-time of “reality” no longer provide a model for digital bodies. The result could be paradoxical. Social entropy of capitalism as the only global system of information is a stabilizing force and produces interaction of its subjects/actors to the potential exhaustion of cognitive capacity. This system, therefore, perfectly operates in a crisis and produces the stability of a network that should be constantly regenerated by moving the center to the edge of the current condition.
The installation TechnoSphere focused on the key issue of the digital era. We have seen that Heidegger showed that in the outcome of the Early Modern period three fundamental words of thought were highlighted: “life”, “experience”, and “illusion.” Thus, TechnoSphere questioned the old metaphysical difference between nature and the human world. A virtual 3D environment in which we can see interacting recipients in digital event as users changed accepted characteristics of artificial life forms. The users received emails about events which occur in real time. There are simulations and real activities in virtual space that have references to the event. That at the same time refers to twofold assertion of event in the virtuality. The body form of creature in the battle for survival in artificial environment appears as the Other of „the “life” substance. However, the problem of the illusion of reality emerged from the perspective of our bodily-interacted perception. The TechnoSphere not only „exists“ as new form of „life“, but in fixed space-time there are singular configurations of events. Without interaction between users and recipients of virtual reality there is no „digital evolution“ of singular life as uniqueness in the artificial world (Reichle, 2009). From the perspective of the philosophical discipline that commonly refers to concepts of beauty and sublime, aesthetics simply vanish. On the other hand, information-theoretical examination in digital aesthetics has recently become more articulated. New aesthetics as never before is deeply immersed in the techno-environment and represents a real challenge for research into the conceptual turn in the discipline itself.
We can find a main reason in the origin of the concept from the idea of mutual interconnectedness between computer science and philosophy of information. As Luciano Floridi said in his examination of the philosophy of information, a new and vitally important scope emerges with the intimate connection between art, new technology and technoscience. Philosophy of information is defined as an autonomous field concerned with a critical examination of the conceptual nature and basic principles of information (Floridi, 2002: 123-145). Development of new theoretical approaches is imminent in all aspects of life, including the technological landscape that shaped our perception patterns and socio-cultural matrix in advance. Total flexibility and hybrid character of networks embedded in mutual closure of perspectives has had a great impact on philosophy of science today. The technology is true invention. From that point of view we can move directly beyond frontiers of mapping-territories on the ground when there are different forms of technological progress as different forms of aesthetic strategies through the entire history of modern epoch. Information is approached very often from many perspectives, but usually as a reality or ecological information; information about reality or semantic information, and finally, as generic information about reality that provide crucial turning points of knowledge in the posthuman condition (Floridi, 1999). As we mentioned earlier, the process of transition from semiosphere as mediasphere to the area of completely new concept was articulated by technoscience, and artwork today could have large consequences to our mental scapes, particularly when we talk about perception and neurocognitive issues.
The process of aesthetisation is going to capture almost the entire reality of contemporary art. Within the environment of postindustrial societies, art and technology operate as complex living systems. It is no longer about the nice things and objects of industrial civilization. Rather, we can envision it as being an open access to new aesthetic objects which are ready-to-use (ready-mades). In our network societies aesthetics cannot be autonomous in its effort to carve out almost all leading movements in modernism. It is a part of either technoscience or the philosophy of art. However, the internal driving force of the process of aesthetisation in the entire world of life that we can overview in postindustrial environment goes beyond encompassing borderlines. What happens when aesthetic processes arise out of the logic of technosphere becomes clear as soon as we realize it might be shown that the “experience” and “illusion” of beauty in the digital world occur only from the production of artificial life. Therefore it should be irrelevant that the idea of Jane Prophet’s installation is linked with the construction of an artificial “ecosphere.” In the field of A-life only different forms can flourish and thrive. The installation of the contemporary British artist in virtual space crossed the borders where all artifacts were considered aesthetic objects.
Let us turn now to the fundamental concepts of digital art. They could also be understood as the fundamental concepts of digital communication: (1) design, (2) interactivity, (3) emergence, (4) autopoietical systems, (5) cybernetical models and algorithms of action, (6) mediality performance, (7) immateriality of works, (8) virtual reality space, (9) simulation events, (10) artificial life and artificial intelligence (Reichle, 2003: 193 – 204). The technosphere does not denote only a visual metaphor for interactive communication on the network, but is rather an attempt to build a complex environment. It keeps the communication interface. Also it controls nature as an artificial landscape (mediascape) which was necessarily determined by artificial life. However, if this explanation is sufficient for enframing the digital or technological aesthetics in our cultural reshaping currents, then communication in the digital age derive from constellation of relationships between human and inhuman on different grounds than never exist in the history of mankind.
3. Interaction as Event
Design in the digital age becomes communication design and an interactive immaterial culture. This means that the concept of the environment extends from the world to the entire biosphere and mediosphere. Communication can no longer be reduced to unambiguous terms of social action in the world and in the world of life. With the idea of generating life itself in biocybernetical systems, its aesthetic code refers to totally designed life from its inception to its disappearance. Contemporary aesthetics of the digital era might be described by creative design of the world of “experience” and “illusion” of events. This kind of creative design constructs uncanny networking the “ecstasy of communication” (Baudrillard, 1994: 145-154). However, let’s repeat the question: what makes a “bit” of technosphere? If this concept means to connect the technology and art of life itself as artificially constructed environment (design), does something happen beyond technology and art, beyond a completely “artificial” world, or we should be able to support the radical change of our philosophical and artistic ways of thinking concerning the existence and meaning of the posthuman condition? In the view of developments in the technosciences, it should be noted that we have performed completely new conception of “nature” in the last fifty years. Paradoxically, technosciences were embedded in huge networks of life technologies just like transhumanism and posthumanism in reference to body modifications and its enhancement. Donna Haraway, for instance, broke up with binary oppositions of nature and culture (Haraway, 1990). The differentiation between nature and culture was always considered a matrix of transfigurations of beings which are separated by an ontological “iron curtain”. The solution in the era of technosciences could be a very simple operation in thinking-as-image making virtualities – hybrid network theory (Latour, 1999). From this point of view interaction become the essence of digital communications. Also, it become a key factor of the entire transformative process which is taking place in network realities that encompass both sciences and arts, society and bodies. There are no strong conflicts between human actors and non-human environments. Obviously, the reason lies in reversal of the radical negation of binary oppositions. In the hybrid network of interactors and transbodies all conflicts of this kind definitely become obsolete.
In the concept of interactivity, as is evident in the phrase that consists of the words between (inter) and action, that what belongs to a thinking machine and that what is inherent to the human body are perfectly coincided. The machine is programmed with options that body chose on the basis of its relationship to the environment. Therefore, the media interactivity is nothing more than emergent practice. It cannot be completely independent from natural factors as points of resistance and can immerse itself in the realm of pure subjectivity. The merging new phenomenon was at the same time separated from the old phenomenon in a completely reverse direction, creating its own aesthetic way of communication by changing the digital code. If we want to summarize what distinguishes contemporary media art from modern artworks, the answer could only be: the event of interactivity. The triple circle of author, work, and spectator is becoming interactive within the complete artistic event because what happens in the digital age assume the emergent label of technosphere as unity of artificial life and artificial intelligence. Event as interactivity triggers the change in the status of work, author, and audience. So, interactivity might be understood as a technological concept of communication between “desire machines” as the thinking and sensuousness of machinery in particular. It is always imbedded in the contextual reality of entities/actors. Therefore, interactive art was determined by the metamorphoses of media. It is an art-in-transformation (information and conditions) of living body in real space and real time. From this perspective we could comprehend the ontological place of body in virtual space. The interactive media art installation, e.g. TechnoSphere, necessarily assumes a performative character, because techno-pictures open many possibilities for emergence of different kinds of events in an artificial environment.
What are consequences of the transformation of information in the transformation of immaterial events or digital images? We have seen how media art attempts to create a total work of art in the cognitive space-time of virtual reality. We didn’t consider a computer as “window through the world”. In that manner Leibniz described the monads. They cannot enter the world intermediary. On the contrary, function and meaning of computer in generating techno-pictures consist in the fact that it visualizes the world. This world appears like a dream in the triad of traditional aesthetic categories of “experience”, “illusion”, and “empathy.” The latter term referred to a unique opportunity to participate in the event, which either imitates the real life drama or shows and represents the medium of cyber physicality in the unpresentable and unrepresentable. At the same time, they were reserved for the notion of greatness in aesthetics from Burke to Nietzsche. The basis for the exhibition dedicated to the relationship between new information and communication technologies and contemporary art entitled Les Immatériaux held 1985 in Paris, was Lyotard’s notion of the unrepresentable (Lyotard, 1994). That exhibition reconsidered the issue of the construction of “uncanny” as technological or artificially created greatness. Herein lies the reason why media arts in the digital age move beyond the arts, and simultaneously all digital media become meta-media. If we are humans in the digital age, we should be able to become a project of transformation the substance of “human nature“. It is self evident that the language of communication leads to radical scientific interpretation of media art and could not be more than the application of techno-aesthetics. However, the artificial creation of life will simply be denoted with the other kind of “existence” in our understanding the thing itself.
In contemporary philosophy in the footsteps of Husserl, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, until now the fundamental question of understanding the relationship between human and machine from the perspective of intersubjectivity of consciousness, events and language games might be determined as the question of the conditions for human communications in the world. Heidegger’s name for the event (Ereignis) occurs as the face of being and time going through language as a truth-telling world. Hence, it is not the world of objective or subjective truth, but rather the truth of the world without the metaphysical distinction installed on the logical-historical level. What happens in the present world obviously would have a strong impact on the understanding of the language in the world and its relation with the network of communication. In the digital age, the world is constructed by the method of the technosphere. It is clear that language directed towards technical skills would be pragmatic and focused on the function, structure, and application of the “fact”. But the technosphere as possible encounter of human and machines was programmed with a new technical language. With a little help from that apparatus, new concepts of computer visualization could perform an interactive communication in telematically managed societies. Those who argue that a global order based on assumptions of technical knowledge and skills implicitly indicates the disappearance of physical proximity actually went in completely new directions. What remains open for further considerations might still be the question of language.
Willem Flusser in an analysis of techno-pictures noted that language always operates as a symbolic form of communication. The discursive conditions for transference of language into an apparatus were established by the computation of information. These assumptions constitute major propositions about the nature of connectivity in mutual convergence between language and machine-worlds. Without introduction of media images of the world, or technosphere, language remained “empty” and lost its meaning. In fact, the language lost its own world. There are no longer “natural” worlds of the abodes of gods, humans, and other creatures. We are living in a time of disappearance of languages. In one of the most disturbing descriptions of communication, contemporary media philosopher Vilém Flusser wrote:
“The Human communication is an artificial concept, with the intention of forgetting the nonsense of life on death row convicts. The man is ‘by nature’ solitary being, because he knows that he must die and that in the moment of death with him forever disappears his whole community. Everyone must die alone / … / Human communication covers a veil on codified world, the veil of art and science, philosophy and religion … / … / In short, a person communicates with others as “political animal,” not because he is social animal, but because the man is solitary animal who cannot live in solitude.” (Flusser, 2005: 10).
Everything has been stored in an application when the language of information reflects the entropy of social relations in the form of messages without meaning. Hence, uselessness dos not mean the meaninglessness of things, but rather the unworkableness of opinions in closed systems. The problem of the digital world should be considered in this way when it aesthetically and technically flawlessly functions. But virtual experience in that flawlessness already disappears exactly at the moment when everything seems to be quite useless, worthless, unusable. The digital age, therefore, maybe reflects an uncanny event of the disintegration of the world of life and its continuation in the artificial life we denote as the technosphere, where the death experience becomes interactive communication due to fear of emptiness and abandonment of the human’s own language – probably the last remaining refuge of a meaningful world. Can we find a way out of this one-way street?
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Žarko Paić is a Professor at the University of Zagreb, where he teaches courses in Aesthetics and Media Theory. He publishes frequently in philosophy, social sciences, and art theory. His publications include Theorizing Images, eds. with Krešimir Purgar (2016), and Technosphere Vol. 1-5 (2018-2019), White Holes and the Visualization of the Body, (2019), Neoliberalism, Oligarchy and Politics of the Event – At the Ege of Chaos (2020), Aesthetics and the Iconoclasm of Contemporary Art - Pictures Without a World (2021).