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Digital Aesthetics of Failure

MSCR 3210: Special Topics
MR 11:45-1:25

Dr. Kristopher L. Cannon
[email protected]

“If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.”
—Quentin Crisp

This course explores digital aesthetics through the investigation of a specific question: what do we learn about digitality when we examine the aesthetic form of audiovisual media and technologies when they fail? To answer this question, this course reframes normative assumptions about failure—as an experience with or judgment about unsuccessful executions or inadequacies—and, in doing so, will allow us expand our understanding of digital aesthetics beyond an over-simplified list of tools, techniques, or technological operations used to produce audiovisual media. We will explore topics ranging from the ontology of the (digital) photograph to the fantasy of sonic fidelity; from our ability to acknowledge the value of mediated “noise” to pixelization as a critique of our desire for visual mastery; and, from logics of viral code and virality to our experiences with unexpected audiovisual glitches.

In this course, students will read about aesthetics, digitality, media, and technology from a range of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. Course readings will be paired with media, which students will screen/explore in and outside the classroom. Ultimately, students will be required to demonstrate their ability to critically engage with course material in class and in writing.


Featured Image Source: Comet (Esmail, 2014)