Interactive Futures - 2007

Interactive Futures 2007 ( November 15 - 17 ) Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Don Ritter

The Ethics of Aesthetics

Material in this presentation is derived from Ritter’s upcoming book The e Decision which discusses the relationships between aesthetics, ethics, and new media. The e Decision is a book on media literacy that presents an observational approach to the aesthetics of artworks, with an emphasis on works created with new media technologies. The book provides no documentation of actual new media artworks, nor does it propose what is good or bad art. Instead, The e Decision explores how people decide that particular artworks are good. The title alludes to the book’s primary perspective that aesthetic judgments are mechanisms for promoting specific entities and, ultimately, ethical values. Because of this relationship, aesthetic judgments of artworks created in any medium or style are ultimately ethical decisions. The book proposes that artists and art audiences can promote specific values with intention by having an awareness of the influences and consequences of their aesthetic judgements.

Readers are made aware of the relationship between ethics and aesthetics through a body of information derived from the fields of art, psychology, philosophy, aesthetics, and new media technologies. The book presents a diverse collection of over two hundred criteria that people apparently use when judging traditional or new media artworks, obtained through discussions with international artists and art students, and through extensive research interviews with new media curators and theoreticians from Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Slovakia, and USA.

The e Decision intends to enhance a reader’s awareness of the social function performed by art and media of any type. The book explains the mechanism of new media art - how it works - through various chapters on media, aesthetics, human perception, forms of new media art, new media technologies, and composition in image and sound. The function of art - what it does - is explored through chapters on ethics and through an analysis of the research interviews. The e Decision is intended primarily for students and artists of new media art, but it may be of interest to designers, artists, theorists, and curators working in any medium.

Topics in this presentation at INTERACTIVE FUTURES 2007 will include the process of aesthetic judgement, influences and consequences of aesthetic judgments, and the ethics of aesthetics. Using this outline, the presentation will emphasize the ethical consequences of screen-based new media art.

Writing of The e Decision received support from Pratt Institute (NYC), the Banff Centre for the Arts, ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (Germany), and the Media Arts Section of the Canada Council.

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