Archive for June, 2012

What I Know About the New Aesthetic (and Postpedagogy)

I’m into the idea of the new aesthetic and I feel like it has a lot of interesting pedagogical implications.

Here’s what I understand about the new aesthetic; when I interact with technology, say take a photo of my wife with the camera on my phone, if the picture turns out “normal,” meaning that looking at the image produced by my phone very closely resembles the image created with my eyes and brain when I look at the same scene, then I think nothing of it. There is no tension between my camera phone and I. I am it’s commander and I have told it to do something and it has done it. However, say I take a photo of my wife with my camera phone and it turns out like this: Glitchy Wife  I have a few options of what I can do. I can curse my camera phone for not obeying my orders and see it as an obstacle that is failing to represent “reality.” Or I can accept that my camera phone and I worked together to create this image–accept that neither of us are ever completely in control– and that this image has a beauty in it’s own right. This second take on the image is the New Aesthetic.

The best part about the new aesthetic is that there isn’t anything new about it. There is very little difference between when I take a photo with my camera phone and it turns out “right,” and when it doesn’t. However, the tension created when the image doesn’t match my preconceived notions only makes it more obvious that the camera always has a say in the matter. Every creation mediated by technology, which encompasses just about everything I can think of, including this blog post and the language I use to tell my wife I like her headband. All the new aesthetic does is allows us the chance to embrace the distributed quality of the creation among me and the phone and countless other factors (the windows that the light came through altered the light that was captured by the phone for instance) instead of dismissing it as error or failure.

I feel like there is power and beauty to be found in the act of humility required to move from saying that the image above is wrong to basically saying “it is what it is.” My camera phone didn’t fail to recreate reality because no camera ever actually recreates reality. Accepting this allows me to relinquish the delusions of control I have and start allowing myself to explore the possibilities available to me in a camera that creates these primary colored squares and swirls. I get to be surprised my our creation. Instead of upset that my own creation failed.

So, pedagogical implications… I feel like teaching a class is much the same way. If I think I am the one who is teaching my students and that they are learning solely because I stand in front of them and give them knowledge, I am deluded. I am one small part of their learning process. I need to allow myself to step back, get out of their way and stop tricking myself into thinking I am changing their lives. I am only there to help them figure out that they are capable of changing their own. And the sooner I recognize the distributed quality of their learning process, the sooner they can figure that out.