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Text "Aesthetics of Information Ethics". 2017.
This is a first reflection by Paolo Cirio on the Aesthetics of Information Ethics.
This essay is a work in progress.

Aesthetics of information ethics looks at the expanding social spheres affected by information systems as active social spaces and agents for making works of art. This particular aesthetics considers an art practice that uses social relations as raw material, the rearrangements of social contracts as techniques, and the creations of social transactions as end results of the artworks.

There are many possibilities of rearrangements of social relations in a fully interconnected society. Artists creatively play with distribution systems of sensitive information, ethereal economies, flexible labor and property, circulating bodies and goods, manipulated and monitored relationships, expanded public spaces, and exploited opinion formation. Today, social contracts are fluid; they constantly reorganize society and produce new social conditions. These active spaces are where information ethics emerge and where artists intervene in reassembling the agents and environments of their artworks. The social transactions created, rearranged, or accentuated by artists both produce and make visible the complexity, contradictions, and complicity within such social relations.

Artistic aesthetics are intended here as sensations, appearances, emotions and perceptions of reality created by works of art. Ethics of aesthetics concerns the ability of the artists to orchestrate the sensibility of the audience and subject through producing critique, fear, empathy, alienation, complicity, speculation, spectacle, warning, and awareness. The aesthetic qualities of the works can be called into question and they can produce meaningful critical discourse regarding ethical conditions of the work and the subjects. The responsibility and conscience of the artists - as well as of the art critics and curators - are integrated in analysis and validation of the social and artistic efficacy of the artworks.

Information systems that affect social relations are widely available to contemporary artists. These systems are not limited to the Internet, algorithms, big-data, and other technologies. These basic elements are mutually influenced by the political, cultural, legal, and financial systems, as well as several other social fields and infrastructures. Information systems should be intended as interconnected networks of social systems in which interventions have the potential to reverberate throughout the whole networks, and consequently impact a variety of entities and individuals which are inevitably connected.

The ethics of the power of these information systems are directly embodied in artworks that make use of such power. The ethical relations activated by art with information systems create aesthetic forms. This aesthetics is discussed by measuring, comparing, evaluating the strategies, consequences, conditions, and circumstances of the works of art. Such analysis needs to take in account a broad social context, therefore integrating the distribution of the work, the mode of presentation within the site of execution, and ultimately the intended and unintended recipients and social consequences that the work generates.

Techniques such as exposure and appropriation of sensitive information, as well as the manipulation and disruption of social relations should be balanced with the parameters of intentions, receptions, and outcomes of the artwork. In the aesthetics of information ethics, we can infer that context is the principle from which we can asses the ethics of artworks. Meaning and impact vary based on the context of presentation, execution, and results which needs to be accounted for all the properties of the information systems involved. These methodologies of art production and critique are ultimately oriented to maximize and develop the common good within the meaning of ethics as understanding and the making of dignified existence for humans and the environment surrounding them.

Ethics are negotiated, developed, and balanced through reflections on consequences and intentions of human activity. Differentiating from morals - which are often static and ideological - ethics are dynamic, reflexive, and evolving principles that must be constantly discussed and confronted. Art plays a central role in this process. Evolving cultural forms and provoking art are essential instruments to sense and signal the forming of ethics.


By Paolo Cirio.
2017.


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