Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathAesthetics of the Digitalicon: navigation pathCybernetic Aesthetics

icon: previous page

system of signs that transports formalizable aesthetic information.

Rational aesthetics

In order to arrive at formulas as well as evaluation and procedural norms for aesthetics centered on the notion of the message, information theory was first adapted to aesthetics, and the language then formalized along with the aesthetic parameters. A first approach was taken by the American mathematician George David Birkhoff, in whose study «Aesthetic Measure» (1933) the search for reliable, objective rules for the aesthetic evaluation of works of art arrived at a formula according to which ‹O› measures order, and ‹C› the usage of material ‹M.› The aesthetic measure can then be represented as follows: M = O/C.

Birkhoff’s manner of proceeding is basically comparable with that of Norbert Wiener, who likewise employed statistical methods used by scientists. Birkhoff introduced purely statistic methods into his aesthetic theory in order to arrive at a quantification of the analysis of a work. In this way, rational aesthetics constituted itself as an unmistakable antithesis to aesthetic models derived


from the traditions of Idealism or Romanticism.

This signified a turning point in aesthetic theory, which split up into two focal research fields as of the second half of the 1930s. Although either current was pursuing the same objective—the legitimization of aesthetically reliable foundations of art—the path struck upon was diametrically opposed in either case. The one current anchored the foundations in rational methods, with the result that any reflection upon art was expected to be based on scientific procedures in order to obtain objective results. The other current, whose principles were oriented toward the truth of art, did not reduce aesthetic experience to causal and objective relations, and insofar could not be equated with exact sciences, since it was based on subjective knowledge.

Obviously, the second possibility remained closed to proponents of rational aesthetics, whose theories were formulated with a view to aesthetic objectification. In regard to concepts such as the purpose and meaning of works of art, information was applied as a ‹unit of measure› for evaluation. Research involved the search for probabilities, for the formation

icon: next page