IHUM: Aesthetics of Information, and a call for experiments

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The Aesthetics of Information: a symposium…

On Friday, February 7, IHUM (the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities) will host an afternoon symposium on “The Aesthetics of Information.” The occasion will bring together scholars across the humanities to think about the convergence of two developments, the new availability of sophisticated data sets related to traditional humanistic subjects, and new possibilities for representing what we discover there. The category of aesthetics stands at their juncture. Our questions: What new experiences, even new beauties, become available to us when we translate between, or among, fact, text, image, map, diagram, video, sound? What new routes to appreciation, understanding, or action are opened? But also: How is experience of the objects of our study changed, even displaced by new representations that have their own aesthetic charisma? What do the charms of design mean for the work of analysis, of persuasion, or of activism? What kind of knowledge do we gain, and what kind of knowledge might we lose? Joining us are Alex Galloway (NYU), Mark Hansen (Duke), Robert Hopkins (Sheffield/NYU), Laura Kurgan (Columbia), William Rankin (Yale), Marion Thain (Sheffield/NYU), and Victoria Vesna (UCLA).

…and a call for experiments

In the two months preceding the symposium, we invite members of the graduate and faculty communities to make experiments in the aesthetics of information: to ask, what might these potentials mean for the future of the humanities, and for your own scholarship, and that of your friends and colleagues? There are two ways to get involved. One: the pool. Submit an object (broadly-defined: a text, an image, a piece of music or sound file, an artifact), something you are interested in, maybe working on. Another participant will take that object as his or her own, mining it for information, and deciding how that information might be represented most effectively, charismatically, beautifully, etc. By submitting an object, you incur the obligation to perform an information-extraction of your own on the object of another. (We will arrange a marketplace of sorts, to organize this exchange.)   Two: the bathtub. In the second model, you choose the object, you render it as information, and you represent that information in a new form. Less chancy than option one, but also less chancy. (It does have the advantage of allowing you to experiment on work you might well want to continue; a good choice if you want to try making something for yourself that you might just use later on.) Whether you choose the first model or the second, we ask that you present the information you find in a way that can be displayed – visually, aurally, textually, digitally, numerically, or in any other fashion – at an exhibition, which will complement a symposium to be held on February 7 at the Betts Auditorium in the School of Architecture. Collaborations, in either model, are welcome. The exhibition will be a resource for the thinking and talking we will do together at the symposium, and, we hope, for the whole Princeton community.  All media are eligible, analog or digital, material or immaterial, wet or dry, etc. Given the special prominence and potential of new media, we have collected some digital tools to explore. But we do not mean to limit contributions. We will figure out a way to display anything. The broad challenge is not only to explore the kinds of knowledge that emerge from various modes of analysis and quantification, but what kinds of new experience are available through their translation into newly and differently legible forms. If you plan to participate, please let us know as soon as possible by sending an email to ihum@princeton.edu. For those who enter the pool, we will begin to make pairings as soon as possible. Final submissions will be due on Friday January 31. (We will send submission instructions to contributors as the day approaches.)  All contributors will also be invited to dinner after the symposium on February 7, which will feature some experiments in musical mapping by Dan Trueman and company. Join us!

interdisciplinary program in the humanities

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