Overcoming Information Aesthetics: In Defense of a Non-Quantitative Informational Understanding of Artworks

Keywords: Aesthetics, Artwork, Complexity, Information, Pattern, System.


Attempts to describe aesthetic artefacts through informational models have existed at least since the late 1950s; but they have not been as successful as their proponents expected nor are they popular among art scholars because of their (mostly) quantitative nature. However, given how information technology has deeply shifted every aspect of our world, it is fair to ask whether aesthetic value continues to be immune to informational interpretations. This paper discusses the ideas of the late Russian biophysicist, Mikhail Volkenstein concerning art and aesthetic value. It contrasts them with Max Bense’s ‘information aesthetics’, and with contemporary philosophical understandings of information. Overall, this paper shows that an informational but not necessarily quantitative approach serves not only as an effective means to describe our interaction with artworks, but also contributes to explain why purely quantitative models struggle to formalise aesthetic value. Finally, it makes the case that adopting an informational outlook helps overcome the ‘analogue vs digital’ dichotomy by arguing the distinction is epistemological rather than ontological, and therefore the two notions need not be incompatible.

Author Biography

Rodrigo Hernández-Ramírez, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Rodrigo Hernández-Ramírez (Mexico City, 1982) is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. He is a member of the Centre for Research and Studies in Fin Arts (CIEBA) at the same institution. His research interests include photography, new media and philosophy of technology. His current research focuses on the ontological nature of computational technology and its impact on aesthetic practices, as seen through the lens of philosophy of information.


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