The aesthetic dimension of visual culture


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Spara som favorit. How can aesthetic enquiry contribute to the study of visual culture? There seems to be little doubt that aesthetic theory ought to be of interest to the study of visual culture. For one thing, aesthetic vocabulary has far from vanished from contemporary debates on the nature of our visual experiences and its various shapes, a fact especially pertinent where dissatisfaction with vulgar value relativism prevails. Besides, the very question-ubiquitous in the debates on visual culture-of what is natural and what is acquired in our visual experiences has been a topic in aesthetics at least since the Enlightenment.

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Article Navigation. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume 3. Article Contents. The turn to the arts. New sources, views, and voices. Learning to read the Hindu arts. Six perspectives on Hindu arts. Oxford Academic. Google Scholar.

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Cite Citation. Permissions Icon Permissions. Artefactual approaches Perhaps furthest from aesthetic perspectives is an approach that has grown from the archaeological approach to artefacts as objects that can be read as an intersection of persons, resources, and systems of material production. Iconic approaches It is possible to interpret many visual arts as a fairly straightforward semiotic discourse, communicating through the language of iconography.

Transformative approaches Beyond iconic and embodied hermeneutic approaches, in some contexts the artwork is not really an object at all, but primarily exists as the occasion of an affective process of transformation of the spectator.

Hypothesis and Theory ARTICLE

Six perspectives on Hindu arts These and other aesthetic philosophies are in evidence throughout the following articles, which demonstrate not only the importance of the wide range of cultural creations from poetry and dance to hagiography in constituting Hindu culture, but also reveal the dynamic existence of the arts, growing new meanings across diverse changes in time, space, and social inclination. Beyond Appearances? Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India , p. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

In: Beyond Appearances? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dwyer, C. Pinney, Eds. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. In: L. Babb, S. Wadley, Eds. Bloomington: University of Indiana; Kajri Jain, Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India. New Delhi: Sage Publications; etc. India: Motilal Banarsidass. De, A History of Sanskrit Poetics , p. Calcutta: Firma KLM. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. USA: Anima Books. Mitchell, Lives of Indian Images , p.

The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.

Princeton: Princeton University Press. India: Motilal Banarsidass, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Understanding its aesthetic and cultural implications will be crucial to making sound decisions about its uses and informing the growing number of people it affects. The SEA generates knowledge within the academic context, while experimental creative projects express that knowledge in a broader social context, engaging the public in dialogue about the data-driven interfaces that play a major role in contemporary culture.

What is Visual Culture?

Two primary areas of inquiry inform the work of the SEA: scholarship on data visualization techniques, and the work of conceptual and media artists and theorists addressing the cultural implications of data collection, ownership, and display. The majority of scholarly literature on data visualization addresses its technical aspects, focusing on areas such as optimization, key problems of image recognition, and new techniques for visual representation of large data searches, generally with an aim of increasing efficiency and effectiveness of data interpretation [6, 3].

This approach has made valuable contributions to technical knowledge, but it offers at best an incomplete understanding of data visualization, which largely ignores its aesthetic and cultural implications. My interest in this underrepresented area of research led to founding the SEA to use research and artistic projects to investigate the aesthetics of data and its cultural implications.

1. Introduction

Although small in comparison to efforts dedicated to understanding efficiency and optimization, a growing body of scholarly literature and creative work attempts to formulate a rigorous understanding of the aesthetic considerations of data, drawing from the disciplines of computation and design. In the past decade, computer scientists such as Martin Wattenberg and Sheelagh Carpendale have noted the important role aesthetics and semiotics play in human perception of data visualizations [23, 4].

Meanwhile, media theorists such as Alexander Galloway, Warren Sack and Meredith Hoy, and designers such as Victoria Vesna and Lev Manovich speculate on the impact of data aesthetics on visual culture and contemporary art [12, 20, 13, 21, 15]. Recent inquiries into the aesthetics of computational visualization rest largely on foundational work done by Muriel Cooper at the MIT Media Lab, where the Visible Language Workshop investigated the user experience of information from a graphical perspective, creating new computational environments in which data could be experienced in new ways by users [19].

This work influenced later data designers who targeted discovery in the social and hard sciences by using visual metaphors. These include Ben Fry, whose technically accurate interactive visualizations helped scientists analyze the human genome [11].

The Aesthetic Dimension of Visual Culture (conference report)

Fry collaborated with Casey Reas to develop Processing, a visually-based programming language that has extended the abilities of information designers. Fernanda Viegas produced influential visualizations of activity on Wikipedia, translating editing activity into topographical landscapes [22]. With few exceptions, the most significant contributions in the aesthetics of visualization over the past two decades have been made by researchers with the ability to merge the disparate disciplines of computer science and design. The work of conceptual and media artists contains valuable lessons that can be applied to produce a nuanced understanding of the cultural context of data visualization.


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Contemporary media artists have built on the work of early conceptual artists such as Joseph Beuys and Hans Haacke in innovative ways, applying technically adept visualizations to produce aesthetically compelling artworks that engage with cultural, social, and political issues. More recently, tactical media artists Tad Hirsch and Trevor Paglen use visualization techniques to question the treatment of political detainees by the US military and environmental impacts of industrialization. Similarly, Metahaven, the Amsterdam design studio of Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk, develops unsolicited branding and marketing strategies to interrogate cultural data trends such as Wikileaks, using techniques that range from physical artifacts to web-based visualizations.

In some cases, the contributions of media artists extend beyond cultural issues to influence the development of technologies themselves. Collectively, contemporary media artists use data visualization in new and original ways to create aesthetically compelling, technologically adept artworks that offer valuable perspectives on data visualization and the cultural questions surrounding its use.

These works engage viewers and participants in a collective discussion about the role of data, information flows, and structures that increasingly define our society. Work at the SEA follows a cycle that includes preliminary research, prototyping virtual platforms and physical artifacts that are shown in public spaces or galleries, and communicating research results.

This iterative design process revolves around praxis, which can be described as the joining of making and theory. The practice of ideas through experiential projects is ideally suited for investigating the aesthetic and cultural dimensions of data collection, distribution and display. Material and visual inquiry offer unique insights that augment and extend knowledge gained through analysis and writing. A multivalent approach that combines both material and visual investigations with writing offers contributions that extend beyond scientific analysis and current data science fields.

The Studio for Extensive Aesthetics creates exploratory data-driven online platforms and physical art and design installations that yield insights into the technical function and cultural use of data tools and methods. Engaging with reflexive questions, studio research addresses issues such as data ownership and inherent bias, as well as the larger cultural implications of living in an age defined by real time streams of information and global sensor networks.

Fundamental changes have occurred in visualization in the past two decades due to the rise of processing power coupled with data collection on an unprecedented scale. With the rise of big data, contemporary data visualization increasingly functions as a mass medium, merging visualization with interaction design to influence lives online and off.

The significant opportunities as well as danger of misuse make it imperative to study the aesthetic aspects of data visualization. Understanding these questions requires an original approach that draws from disparate disciplines of art, design and computer science in equal measure. The Studio for Extensive Aesthetics produces art works and research that engage specialists and the general public in dialogue about the role of data aesthetics in contemporary culture, rewriting information culture as a collaborative affair.

Initiating public dialogue about the role of data aesthetics is especially critical in our contemporary society, which is increasingly defined by data collection, screens and information flows. Search for:. Current 08 Contribute to Current Editorial Board. The SEA explores three primary topics pertaining to data: The role of aesthetic considerations in the function and affect of data visualization The cultural implications of data collection, ownership, and display The use of data-driven creative artworks that engage a wide public in reflecting on and rewriting information culture as a collaborative affair Data visualization is becoming increasingly pervasive and influential with the rise of big data.

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The aesthetic dimension of visual culture The aesthetic dimension of visual culture
The aesthetic dimension of visual culture The aesthetic dimension of visual culture
The aesthetic dimension of visual culture The aesthetic dimension of visual culture
The aesthetic dimension of visual culture The aesthetic dimension of visual culture
The aesthetic dimension of visual culture The aesthetic dimension of visual culture
The aesthetic dimension of visual culture The aesthetic dimension of visual culture

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