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Technological Aesthetics of Imperfection in Times of Frictionlessness  | Supervisors: Ellen Rutten and Marie-Aude Baronian | Date, Time and Location: 21 Sept. 2021, 12:00, Agnietenkapel 

Event details of Dissertation Defense: Jakko Kemper
Date 21 September 2021
Time 12:00

This dissertation examines the notion of imperfection as both an aesthetic concept and an existential condition. By drawing on Jacques Derrida’s concept of autoimmunity, Martin Hägglund’s concept of chronolibido and the concept of spectrality, I demonstrate how the significance of an aesthetic of imperfection lies in how it affectively attunes its beholder to conditions of finitude and fragility. This aesthetic quality, so I argue, is especially pertinent today, in the technological era of what I describe as frictionlessness. In a reorientation of Bernard Stiegler’s project of pharmacology, I conceive of frictionlessness as a pervasive technological design philosophy whose most toxic aesthetic ramification is that it, in order to operate, both requires and obscures from view a vast network of exploited bodies, objects and materials. While the design philosophy of frictionlessness aims to draw the user’s perception away from the exploitative and destructive conditions of digital production, imperfection forms an aesthetic source of friction that alerts users to the fragile nature of technology and the finite resources on which it relies. These arguments are further developed through a close reading of three technological objects – a video game that was programmed to expire, an audiovisual performance that laments the fate of disused technology and a collection of music albums that dramatize a techno-cultural logic of relentless consumerism – that draw on an aesthetic of imperfection to elicit a sense of care for technology and the worlds that facilitate it. Ultimately, through introducing the concept of technological melancholia, I conclude that an aesthetic of imperfection potentially shapes a relation to technology that is marked by a sensitivity to rather than a disregard for the many fragile ghosts the digital breeds.