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Themesicon: navigation pathAesthetics of the Digitalicon: navigation pathEditorial
Digital Aesthetics: Introduction
Claudia Giannetti


The early twentieth century saw the formation in various fields of new theoretical approaches sharing a skeptical attitude towards the fundamental certainties that had profoundly influenced occidental culture and science. Towards the mid-twentieth century concepts like truth, reality, reason and knowledge became central in an intensive contest between rationalism and relativism. In the course of this debate, several theories were dissociated from the self-referential character of their scientific disciplines and increasingly placed in correlation with other fields. Examples of metadisciplinary models include the cybernetic analysis of message transmission and man-machine communication or, more recently, postmodernist philosophy and its notion of ‹contaminated,› ‹weak› thinking. [1] This relativism manifested itself in various aspects of art: as an essential component in the process of producing experimental art from the first avantgarde movements onward; in the radical transformation of the forms of art reception; in the tendency to interconnect and establish interchange among various art genres (discernible in interventionist and interdisciplinary works or ‹mixed media›); and


finally in the intensified exchange among art, science, and technology. Artistic practice appropriated new media—initially photography and film, later video and computer—and new communication systems—post and telephone, followed by television and Internet. Under this premise, and above all from the 1960s onward, a gradual shift set in away from academic, orthodox positions attempting to confine art to traditional techniques, and aesthetics to ontological foundations.

However, the profound transformations resulting from these new approaches did not invariably meet with understanding, let alone acceptance, from artists. If one further takes into consideration the recently re-ignited controversy about the long-predicted crises of art and philosophical aesthetics, as well the widespread discourse among postmodernist writers which was linked to tendencies in technological and academic theory, then everything does in fact seem to point toward a disintegration of art and aesthetics. Yet a large part of such polemics can be attributed to the fact that aesthetic theory and artistic practice have gone separate ways. Artists’ increasing use of technology is bringing to light a far-reaching and

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