The Aesthetics of Cool


Session Title:

  • Theories of Social Media

Presentation Title:

  • The Aesthetics of Cool




  • The proliferation of tools for self-production of media content gives rise to the question: What to fill digital memories with?

    Most studies of self-production are characterized by a certain degree of pessimism: the most probable result is products that have no meaning outside the individual sphere and the individual archive. After all, since the mass distribution of cameras, have they not been used mainly for the petty, shallow projects of tourists?

    From this point of view, digital media can contribute nothing new or meaningful, just as photography and cinema, as mass technologies, failed to subvert the dominant reality. The exponential multiplication of sources of digital production has not enriched the world with meaning, it has only made it more complex and perhaps more multilateral. Nevertheless, it is commonly believed that blogs, pirate or street televisions, independent magazines and streaming radio broadcasts are more convincing to report upon contemporary events than official media.

    In the paper I’m proposing, I tried to analyse the repetitiveness of ‘amatorial productions’, emphasizing two tendencies that characterize society as a whole: the preference for speed over depth (which contributes to a state of  ‘diffuse aesthetics’) and a devaluation of aesthetic concepts such as ‘beauty’ (and the form of experience occasioned by it), in favour of a new aesthetic category, that of ‘cool’.

    ‘Coolness’ is an aesthetic attitude that is perfectly confluent with the proliferation of tools for the creation of self-produced media and the lecture will try to address questions such as: What ideal of beauty is expressed within the ideal of cool? Is there any way out from insignificance?

    The paper is a reworked text from my recent book: Web Aesthetics. How Digital Media Affect Culture and Society (2010, NAi Publishers – Rotterdam and Institute of Network Cultures – Amsterdam).