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Materializing New Media

Embodiment in Information Aesthetics

Anna Munster

Publication Year: 2011

In Materializing New Media, Anna Munster offers an alternative aesthetic genealogy for digital culture. Eschewing the prevailing Cartesian aesthetic that aligns the digital with the disembodied, the formless, and the placeless, Munster seeks to "materialize" digital culture by demonstrating that its aesthetics have reconfigured bodily experience and reconceived materiality.

Her topics range from artistic experiments in body-computer interfaces to the impact that corporeal interaction and geopolitical circumstances have on producing new media art and culture. She argues that new media, materiality, perception, and artistic practices now mutually constitute "information aesthetics." Information aesthetics is concerned with new modes of sensory engagement in which distributed spaces and temporal variation play crucial roles. In analyzing the experiments that new media art performs with the materiality of space and time, Munster demonstrates how new media has likewise changed our bodies and those of others in global information culture.

Materializing New Media calls for a re-examination of the roles of both body and affect in their relation to the virtual and to abstract codes of information. It offers a nonlinear approach to aesthetics and art history based on a concept of "folding" that can discern certain kinds of proximities and continuations across distances in time (in particular between the Baroque and the digital). Finally, it analyzes digital culture through a logic of the differential rather than of the binary. This allows the author to overcome a habit of futurism, which until now has plagued analyses of new media art and culture. Technology is now not seen as surpassing the human body but continually reconfiguring it and constitutive of it.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: the body in the machine

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pp. 1-24

In 1995 I attended the 22nd annual American Computer Machinery Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Technologies, known in the digital graphics world by the acronym SIGGRAPH. Having endured four days of technical papers on...

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1. Sampling and Folding: the digital and the baroque

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pp. 25-54

In the wake of late-twentieth-century entities such as the “cyborg” or the “posthuman” and with our increasing fascination for the “biotechnological” we have become accustomed to thinking of hybrids as entities that seamlessly graft machines and bodies together...

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2. Natural History and Digital History

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pp. 55-85

Although it may seem unordinary to couple the natural and the historical, the idea of digital history is altogether more pernicious. The digital, as we are constantly reminded, is a new technology, and its newness seems to stretch out toward a future, deemed either...

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3. Virtuality: actualizing bodies, abstracting selves

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pp. 86-116

Catherine Richards’s 1993 installation The Virtual Body is seductively named, having appeared at a particular time in the history of new media arts and entertainment and being deceptively simple in its realization (figure 11). If the culture of information...

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4. Interfaciality: from the friendly face of computing to the alien terrain of informatic bodies

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pp. 117-149

Between the two seemingly opposed approaches of Brenda Laurel and Donald Norman to the design of computer software and hardware, an even playing field defining the dominant relations between humans and computers has been mapped out over the...

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5. Digitality: an ethico-aesthetic paradigm for information

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pp. 150-177

Where and how to locate a digital aesthetic? In a sense the question, reaching us from the already faded past of the early 1990s, is no longer of value for theorists and practitioners of electronic, new media and digital arts. Indicative of the lag and catch-up that...

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Postscript: emerging tendencies in embodied information aesthetics

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pp. 178-186

In an extraordinary new media work, Loops, the collaborative team of Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar, Merce Cunningham and Marc Downie created an abstract motion portrait of the dancer drawn from a changing database of information captured through motion...


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pp. 187-210


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pp. 211-224


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pp. 225-237

E-ISBN-13: 9781611682946
E-ISBN-10: 1611682940
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584655572

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011