Technoaesthetics: Ways of Seeing the 21st Century (NEMLA 2020)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

In a letter written to Jacques Derrida in 1982, Gilbert Simondon poses a question to the project of deconstruction: “Why not think about founding and perhaps even provisionally axiomatizing an aesthetico-technics or techno-aesthetics?” Aesthetic thought has for too long remained at the level of subjective contemplation, which effaces any substantive understanding of technology’s effects upon the larger cultural sphere. The technical and the aesthetic, Simondon contends, should instead be understood as a “continuous spectrum” of experience, as each are composed of a “set of sensations” that emerge as matter is transformed, whether by the artist, the engineer, the designer, or the machinist. Far from being merely within the control of the human artist or operator, technoaesthetics acts on and is acted on by the world. It transcends the limitations of both technics and aesthetics in order to take full account of the character and experience of the material conditions of existence, all of which are inescapably aesthetic and technical.

This roundtable aims to produce a technoaesthetic account of the 21st century. Technoaesthetics, we contend, provides unique, and indeed indispensable, ways of seeing and understanding what Marx called the “feverish velocity” of technologized capitalism. We seek papers that pay particular attention to the problem of vision for contemporary art and aesthetics. Does the imbrication of technics and aesthetics clarify or obfuscate our vision of the world? How might we reimagine technoaesthetics in the age of the digital? In what ways does contemporary art respond to the rise of surveillance and platform capitalisms? Does the inescapable presence of machinic vision in our lives change the relationships between humans and nonhumans, or challenge traditional notions of the human? Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Network Culture
  • Interfaces
  • Cyborgs and Androids
  • Computer Music
  • Drone Warfare/Militarization
  • Obsolescence
  • Prosthetization
  • Animal Technologies
  • Digital Art
  • Description

250 word abstracts for 8-10 minute presentations to be sent through the NEMLA portal:


Please contact the co-chairs with any questions: (Anna Mirzayan, University of Western Ontario, Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism) (Nick Pisanelli, Brown University, Department of English)