Call for Papers, ZfM Nr. 8 (1/2013)
Special issue: Media Aesthetics
Guest Editors: Erich Hörl (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Mark B. N. Hansen (Duke University)
“The aesthetic power of feeling”, wrote the late Félix Guattari, seems to be “on the verge of
occupying a privileged position within the collective assemblages of enunciation of our era.” In
discerning a “new aesthetic paradigm” he was not anticipating something along the lines of the
primacy of the institutionalised arts within the social field, but rather a kind of “proto-aesthetic
paradigm”, traversing all universes of value and existential territories, from the arenas of science
and the ethico-political, to the modalities and practices of subjectivation. This general
aestheticisation which Guattari had in mind at the end of the 1980s may be regarded as one of the
first descriptions of a fundamental upheaval in the history of technology and sensation, a change
taking place during the second half of the twentieth century, but especially since the 1990s, and one
which potentially shifts the meaning of aesthetics as such: under the new media-technological
conditions we observe a proto-aesthetic dressing of the present. This means a fundamental
prioritising of the problem of perception and ultimately of all the sensations and affects which
underpin the faculty of perception – such that media aesthetics may well become a fundamental
problem of media studies. At the same time, the aesthetic question thereby proves increasingly to be
a techno-ecological question of the networked and sensory environments in which sensation occurs.
The possible sensorial and sensational facts which characterise the new aesthetic – or more
precisely, media-aesthetic – regime, range from streams of time-objects, as they spread hyperindustrialised
and technologised audiovisual objects on the basis of numerical transfer standards, to
the rise of sensory milieus (e.g. RFID), to the algorithmic environments of the software agencies of
ubiquitous media, ubiquitous computing, ambient intelligence and calm technologies. We are
witnessing the transformation of the “technological unconscious” (Nigel Thrift), and with it the
transformation of the aesthetic conditions and means by which the world appears – the general
backgrounds of existence and experience, and thus the meaning of the world.
This special issue of ZfM sets out to clarify the historical-systematic contours as well as the
political implications of the new aesthetic paradigm. This necessitates focusing on the key
technical-medial scenes of the current sensorial caesura, outlining the associated conceptual
challenges and issues of politics of terminology, in order thereby to contribute to the redescription
of media-aesthetics under technological conditions, in particular those of the new era of social and
mobile media in the network age.
The following central questions are to be addressed: What are the core problems of media aesthetics
that are associated with the technical-medial transformation of the present, and what are the
corresponding media-aesthetic perspectives? What is the meaning of experience, perception,
sensation, subjectivity under these new media-aesthetic conditions? Does the outline of an original
media-aesthetic question emerge, on the ground of the new facts of perception emergent in digital,
networked media systems and algorithmic milieus, which would contrast with the now traditional
philosophical aesthetics? What scenes should be considered, and which semantic frames are
required, in order to seize the media-aesthetic question in its specificity and its urgency? How does
the new conceptual politics relate to traditional aesthetic conceptual regimes – where are the
possible connections, and where do we find a need for other conceptual strategies? What
genealogical scenes for the new media-aesthetic paradigm can be discerned in the twentieth
century? What are the political challenges of the new aesthetic condition? How should we assess
previous attempts to redefine aesthetics under these radical media-technological conditions?
Text submissions (around 25,000 characters, notes and spaces included), by the end of August 2012,
This special issue of ZfM will be published in April 2013.
Language of the publication is German. Papers are accepted in German, English and French; papers
will be translated after peer-review and acceptance.