The Artificial, the Accidental, the Aesthetic…

  • Nicole Koltick Director, Design Futures Lab, Department of Architecture + Interiors, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Keywords: Artificial Aesthetics, Philosophy, Speculative Realism, Computational Phenomenology


How do we define, discuss or assess aesthetics within a contemporary philosophical framework? The indefiniteness that accompanies attempts to formalize a definition of the aesthetic is a primary focus of this paper. This lack of a definition has occupied philosophers for hundreds of years in attempts to delineate the boundaries of an elusively formless concept. This formlessness speaks to the incredibly evasive character of such a pervasive feature recognized in both natural and artificial systems, agents and artefacts. With the rapid growth of artificially intelligent systems and an astounding diversity in computational creativity, in what ways may we approach aesthetics? How is the aesthetic recognized, determined and produced? This paper seeks to critically engage issues of non-human agency, inter-object relations, and aesthetic theory in relation to computational entities and autonomous systems. The ability of these systems to operate outside of human cognitive limitations including thought patterns and constructions which may preclude alternative aesthetic outcomes, afford them in some ways limitless potential in relation to aesthetics. The designation of the accidental or provisional is utilized as an alternative approach to the production and assessment of aesthetic occurrences of the non-human.

Author Biography

Nicole Koltick, Director, Design Futures Lab, Department of Architecture + Interiors, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Nicole Koltick is an Assistant Professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University and the founding Director of the Design Futures Lab where she leads a graduate research group in critical design practices investigating the intersection of artificial intelligence, ethics and empathy in robotic systems, design and non-human aesthetics. Nicole writes extensively on the philosophical and theoretical implications concerning concepts of the “natural”, the “synthetic”, aesthetics, the rapidly evolving digital landscape and implications of emerging computational ecologies. She has recently completed papers on dark data, aesthetics of emergence, materiality and agency in the future. Her research lab develops full-scale design objects for the future, most recently producing a large-scale synthetic ecology with a new species of robots entitled NESL (Nurturing Emergent Synthetic Life).


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