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Archive of the posts written by author : Nancy Roth.

post literacy, secondary orality and emoji

Suppose someone accused you of being “post-literate”? It does sound vaguely like an insult. But suppose you thought of it in terms of the same phenomena Walter Ong (1912-2003) described with his term “secondary orality,” the return of some features of pre-literate, oral…

Post photography

The resonance of “post-photography” with “post-modernism” can hardly be avoided. There will be an academic conference in Lucerne in November entitled “The Post-photographic Apparatus”. Assuming the term “apparatus” draws, perhaps substantially, on Flusser’s framework, it is a prominent feature of contemporary life that…

“Modernism”

David Antin’s wonderful remark about modernism has been coming back to me a lot lately: “From the modernism you want, you get the postmodernism you deserve”.  I’m guessing he said it sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.  It may have been the impulse behind my…

Mysterious Minoan: Crete and Linear A

Among the many memories of a recent trip to Crete are two different scripts that were developed there. Linear B is an early form of Greek, but Linear A, which seems to use the same characters – or at least some of them –…

Videogames and Alternative Worlds

Flusser‘s late – 1991 — essay “Digitaler Schein” (“Digital Semblance“) in Medienkultur (Media Culture) examines what he calls “alternative worlds,” specifically those that have just begun to appear on computer screens at the time he was writing.  I think any of us now would readily…

Black Box

Flusser used the phrase “black box” to describe at least two very different objects: a camera (in Towards a Philosophy of Photography) and the postal system (in “Letters,” Does Writing Have a Future?).  As radically different as the two seem to be, both refer…

A Photographer on Mars

Opportunity Rover was a very engaging robot.  It “lived” on Mars for nearly 15 years, gathering and transmitting data back to earth; it “died” or, as NASA put it, completed its mission on 13 February 2019.  In terms of its work, Opportunity was a field geologist,…

Flusser, “Games”

This is my translation of a very brief, very early essay Flusser wrote about games, which makes homo ludens the designation for the human specie from the start. But this is not as a means of setting humans apart from, say, animals —…

I am a functionary

I am a functionary.  The phrase sounds like an admission or confession.   But Flusser’s writing keeps drawing us – or at least me – back in, rewarding repeated readings, never feeling “finished” because both writer and reader seem to share the same conditions, conundrums,…

Automated Memory

“Apparatus” is Flusser’s unavoidably cumbersome term for the mesh between humans and devices, an interface so familiar we rarely notice. When the enmeshed devices also mesh with one other, the resulting structures shape — channel and limit — any one person’s capacity to…

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Aesthetic Education

I hope against hope that someday “aesthetic” might be widely understood as something that is NOT always, inevitably, associated with art. If that were the case, perhaps more people would see that we are all making aesthetic judgments, decisions, “gestures” as Flusser put it, all the time (“gestures” include speech and writing as well as, say, genuflection), and that such expressions “say” a great deal about us, what’s basic about us. For human beings’ most logic-resistant loyalties, ranging from harmless preferences to the fiercest commitments, are fundamentally aesthetic.  “I like it” or “I don’t like it” is probably the most familiar expression of an aesthetic judgement (although it can, sometimes, misleadingly refer to a logical or ethical decision).  An aesthetic judgment aligns the speaker on his or her own grounds, without implying any logical or ethical foundation or imposing any tacit obligation to explain or defend.  There is invariably some aesthetic dimension in any of our judgments, whether other people, ideas, rituals, institutions, substances, sounds or tastes. It is NOT restricted to arts!

If you are in conversation with someone about an activity that involves aesthetic decisions (this is likely to be cooking or gardening or shopping for clothes, but it could be anything), the sentences in the exchange will probably include plenty of logical or ethical propositions: does the object or material or plant or fabric serve an intended purposes, fit in a given space, appropriately mark an occasion?  But there will also be statements about aesthetic preferences. When you hear a phrase such as “If it were me, I’d buy that one” or, “That recipe is too complicated for me,” your conversation partner is acknowledging the aesthetic dimension in what you are doing, expressing an awareness that aesthetic responses will differ, and offering reassurance that he or she is prepared to accept this particular difference.   

Suppose that big commitments, such as religious belief or sexual orientation are just as aesthetic at heart as more familiar, less binding ones, such as what you like for breakfast, or which art works resonate with you, or how you feel about trying something new. If the aesthetic dimension really is critical with respect to the big questions, it would be worth building it into even the most basic education.  If people could be more aware of their own aesthetics – their own values – and of how these differ from other people’s, we might be able to heal some of the rifts that currently make us so miserable.  

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