Technological Diffusion and the Construction of a Universal Aesthetic


Session Title:

  • Transcultural Approaches to Electronic Art – Do We Really Care? (Global/Local: High & Low)

Presentation Title:

  • Technological Diffusion and the Construction of a Universal Aesthetic



  • Panel Statement

    Panel: Transcultural Approaches

    Discussions about the globalization of culture often assume that both technological development and the diffusion of technologies from the developed countries throughout the planet are “inevitable”. Two explanations are frequently given for the “inevitability” of technological diffusion: The first is the rapid rate of technological innovation. This argument usually assumes that technological development is independent from other aspects of culture. The second explanation is the unquenchable desire of the people from developing countries for advanced, primarily Western technologies. This suggests that technology possesses intrinsically seductive and redemptive values which drives peoples willfully to abandon their cultural and artistic traditions.

    Regardless of desirability, no technology is ever distributed uniformly. The history of Latin American art indicates that the choice of electronic technologies as mediums for expression is mediated by social and historical factors. In Mexico for example, while computers are used in many urban businesses such as banks and travel agencies, the number of artists cognizant of the latest developments in electronic imaging technologies is limited to a handful. The widespread belief in the redeeming aspects of technology is due at least in part to unfamiliarity of “first world” critics and practitioners with social and economic realities other than their own, and to a long standing practice of presenting technological developments in humanitarian  terms. In order to evaluate the democratic possibilities of new technologies it is necessary to examine the production and consumption of both technology and science. Like scientific practice, art has been believed to have universal values.This position implies that artistic production is independent from its sociopolitical context. The argument has been made that with the advent of feminism, post-structuralism, multiculturalism and the multiplicity of aesthetic choices made possible by the computer the canonization of works of art has become impossible. On the contrary, I contend that at the same time that traditional aesthetic canons
    are being challenged, new canons are being created. I suggest that in addition to the rapid rate of technological development, the construction of these canons is in part a response to  dramatic changes in the structure of the world’s economies and to the seemingly unending migration of people from former colonies to Europe and from culturally dependent areas to North America.