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Database aesthetics

The psychoanalyst Abraham Maslov once remarked that for someone who only has a hammer, everything appears to be a nail. For a globaliz ing culture, in which the computer rapidly has become the main instrument, the world becomes a gigantic database.

We see this database ontology at work when, for example, information technology is deployed in the field of genetic manipulation. The gene pool of life on earth is then no longer primarily conceived as a contingent and factual evolutionary constellation, but rather as a database of an infinite number of virtual life forms that can be actualized at will. In other words, the artistic collage has become a reality-creating tech nology. Biologists use computer programs that can simulate alternative evolutions in order to create specific alternatives to reality. Not only can past life forms be revitalized by in formation-technological manipulation but by contingent or intended mutations; even future possibilities become objects of manipulation (a specific form of what Anthony Giddens calls ‘the colonization of the future’). Although not yet as in as spectacular a way as in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park or in sci ence fiction films such as Robocop, our world is increasingly populated with new, transgenetic life forms (and thus with new forms of post-natural beauty and ugliness), created with the aid of informational bio-technologies.

What applies to physical and biological reality also applies to social and cultural reality, rich domains for the database ontology. We no longer follow, as pre-modern people did, certain habits, customs and norms because there are no other alternatives (known); nor do we, as modern people did, deliberately choose certain options out of a deep conviction. Instead, these cultural genes (called “memes” by Richards Dawkins), are more or less randomly taken from the “meme pool” of the various increasingly globalizing cultures on earth. Read more.

Lees het volledige artikel op de website van Jos de Mul, klik hier.


Jos de Mul (1956) is hoogleraar filosofie van mens en cultuur aan de Erasmus
Universiteit Rotterdam. Van zijn hand verschenen bij uitgeverij Klement o.a. Het
romantische verlangen in (post)moderne kunst en filosofie
(2007) Cyberspace
Odyssee
(2010) en De domesticatie van het noodlot. De wedergeboorte van de
tragedie uit de geest van de technologie
(2007) en het meest recent Paniek in de polder. Polytiek en populisme in Nederland.

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