Alien Aesthetics

Schools of Public Engagement: Media

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Graduate Course
Degree Students
Alien Aesthetics
Fall 2023
Taught By: Josh Scannell
Section: A

CRN: 14395

Credits: 3

What perceives, and how? As the 21st century rolls on, the distinctions between the living and the nonliving have become tenuous. The integration of complex computational technology into an ever-greater range of life has led a range of people - from academics, to artists, filmmakers to warehouse workers, to try to make sense of how machine assemblages think, perceive, assess, and act. We speak casually of “the TikTok algorithm” knowing us, wonder at the strange poetry of GPT-3, and are mystified by the cruel automated decisions of warehouse logistics. There is, in other words, a growing curiosity about inhuman creativity, an alien aesthetics. This class will ask how we might imagine not only machine cognition but machine sensation or becoming. What inhuman processes and sensuousness animate our inhuman interlocutors? And how does our understanding of the line between the human and the inhuman change as the systems in which we are enmeshed come to achieve something like agency? By focusing closely on 21st century art, contemporary media theory, and recent speculative fiction, the class will engage the above questions while we work to flip the script. In addition to thinking about how people can understand the logics of intelligent machines, we will ask how computational technologies make sense of and act on “the world.” To do so, we will pursue a speculative interrogation of alien aesthetics. What happens when we stop seeing “glitches” and “failures” as “errors” and start seeing them as alternative modalities of being? What does it mean to dethrone the human as the ultimate bearer of aesthetic judgment? What kind of politics and modes of labor does such an alien rearrangement imply? In pursuing these questions, the class seeks to deepen our understanding of ubiquitous digital media as producers, users, and the used.

Media Studies courses are open to all graduate students. Undergraduate Juniors and Seniors with permission from the instructor and BA/MA Media studies students should email mediastudiesadvising@newschool.edu for access.

College: Schools of Public Engagement (NS)

Department: Media (MED)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 11, 2023 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 10:50am EST 2/29/2024