Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Screenshot from animated video game. Two pixelated birds at the beach.

August 11, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Roundtable: Voyeur Gaming

Screenshot from animated video game. Two pixelated birds at the beach.
Nathan Wildman plays A Short Hike

Voyeur gaming is the phenomenon of watching, reading, or listening to others play (video) games. It has been around for as long as games have. Many of us have fond memories of sitting on the couch with friends or siblings, being wowed by someone else’s (lack of) skill. But the internet turned voyeur gaming into a proper phenomenon. From humble beginnings as a thread in the Something Awful forums, voyeur gaming is now a full blown industry, with millions upon millions of people eagerly awaiting the next video from their favorite YouTuber or Twitch streamer, some of whom earn over $18 million a year. Meanwhile, game companies are paying streamers to play (and build hype for) new releases, and are specifically designing their games with voyeur gaming content creation in mind.

With the rise of Twitch and esports, it is fair to say that voyeur gaming has become a significant part of our culture.

But, for all that, little has been written about the aesthetic aspects of voyeur gaming. The following collection of posts set out to partially address this lacuna.

Our Contributors:

  • Nathan Wildman, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Tilburg University
  • Javier Gomez-Lavin, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Purdue University
  • Brandon Polite, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Knox College
  • Shelby Moser, Senior Adjunct Professor of Games and Interactive Media at Azusa Pacific University and Part-Time Assistant Professor at Rio Hondo College
  • Rissa Willis, PhD student at the University of Georgia
  • Nele Van de Mosselaer, Postdoctoral researcher in Philosophy at the University of Antwerp
  • Anthony Cross, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Texas State University
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August 5, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Picturing Philosophy: How to Do Philosophy in the Visual Mode

What follows is a guest post by Helen De Cruz (Saint Louis University). She is the editor and illustrator of the recent book Philosophy Illustrated, forty-two thought experiments to broaden your mind.

Pictures may seem like a strange way to philosophize, since people tend to think of philosophy as existing exclusively in written tomes. However, once you let go of the notion of philosophy as abstract ideas put into writing, you start to see it in lots of places. Think of René Magritte’s surrealist paintings such as his “La Durée Poignardé” (literally: Duration Stabbed, but translated more figuratively as Time Transfixed), which features a train racing out of a fireplace. To reflect on this picture requires active engagement and imagination on the part of the viewer. 

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May 12, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Podcast Where Movies Meet Philosophy

What follows is a guest post by Justin Khoo (MIT).

Some of my most cherished memories of graduate school are from a screening room of some kind – sometimes the Whitney Humanities Center, where I was lucky enough to see film prints of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Exorcist, and Mulholland Drive (among many others), but more often some random classroom in Yale’s Hall of Graduate Studies (RIP!), which became, for one night, a place to gather to enjoy and discuss whatever movie one of us had rented from the library.

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April 14, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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“So Bad It’s Good”: How to Love Bad Movies

from The Room (2003), dir. Tommy Wiseau

Writing Why it’s OK to Love Bad Movies has given me an opportunity to bring together two of the most important parts of my life: my cinephilia and my research in philosophy of art. This is not a book I dreamed up in a library or classroom. It emerges from the countless hours I’ve spent immersed in the medium of film, and it’s more of a love letter than a treatise. The ideas I present convey my own way of being as much as my views about debates in aesthetics.

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April 6, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Mississippi River in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Fifteenth L.H. District (1898). Courtesy of the New York Public Library

What follows is a case study by Theodore Gracyk, excerpted from Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics, the newest module of the Bloomsbury Philosophy Library. Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics is anchored by a set of exclusive and original case studies contributed by some of the leading voices in aesthetics today, and written to introduce new students to the broad range of topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, from interpretation and ontology to appropriation, taste, curiosity, and the aesthetics of confusion. More information on BCA and the Bloomsbury Philosophy Library follows below.

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February 18, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Another Face of the World: Photography as Deception and Revelation

What follows is a guest post by Aderemi Artis.

“All philosophy is based on only two things, having a curious spirit, and bad eyes.”1

I

In an interesting aside in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Locke writes, “Were our Senses alter’d, and made much quicker and acuter, the appearance and outward Scheme of things would have quite another Face to us.”2 Raised on comic books wherein heroes and villains often had augmented senses, I have long dreamed about what the world would look like to superhuman perception. Locke himself specifically mentions the prospect of our vision being made “100000 times more acute than…the best Microscope.” Records of his library also show he had a copy of Robert Hooke’s popular and hard-to-get Micrographia (1665),3 in which Hooke described the microscope as an “artificial Organ.” Here is one of Hooke’s images of a fly, the sort of appearance Locke might have had in mind:

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February 11, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Life as Fanfic: Individual and Collective Narrative-Building

What follows is a guest post by Alexis Shotwell (Carleton University).

Did you know that Fifty Shades of Grey started its life as an erotic fan fiction of the Twilight novels? E.L. James changed the names for the publication of her series, but Anastasia is Bella, Christian is Edward, etc. Fan fiction is when readers (“fans”) write stories set in fictional worlds created by other writers. Now, I don’t need you to be excited about vampires or kink, separately or together. But if you didn’t know Fifty Shades’ origin story, isn’t it interesting to learn that it is part of a longer conversation? When I learned this, I suddenly perceived the books as an interaction rather than a proclamation, a work of collective enthusiasm rather than an individual project.

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January 27, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Polite Conversations: Philosophers Discuss the Arts

What follows is a guest post by Brandon Polite (Knox College).

In my YouTube series, Polite Conversations: Philosophers Discuss the Arts*, I interview philosophers about their work in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. We typically discuss a particular journal article or public philosophy piece (including some pieces from Aesthetics for Birds), diving into their views and exploring their implications for anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes. The aims of this series are twofold. The first is that I want to show off the cool and innovative work that’s happening in the field of aesthetics right now, both to the wider philosophical community and to the general public. There is some really amazing work being done in our field, and more people should know about it!

The second aim is pedagogical. Getting to see philosophers doing philosophy together can be a really eye-opening experience for students. To that end, these videos can be used as a way to deepen your students’ insights into a text you’ve assigned them to read, which is how I use them. Alternatively, one or more could be used in place of readings if, say, they’re too advanced for an introductory-level course. I have painstakingly edited the captions—including sometimes highlighting key terms and phrases—to make them accessible to those who want or need them. As teaching tools, the videos are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

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