What is Cultural Aesthetic?

Cultural aesthetic: the study of culture, producing art out of culture. This culture-art is no mere work of design, but only the relishing of culture. It is simply the enjoyment of everyday life or better yet, a partial expression of them. It includes the study of art and its effects on culture, people, and society. In a broader sense, it also includes the history and the critical evaluation of cultural aesthetics.

What is cultural aesthetic? Art and culture are connected, and they are closely intertwined. Art that reflects society in general is an aesthetic life, a representation or depiction of reality as it really is. On the other hand, aesthetic life cannot be separated from the social aspects of existence. The existence of social factors and people in the making of an aesthetic life necessarily gives rise to the existence of culture. Aesthetic value judgment are therefore intertwined.

We can take a simple example to explain this. Suppose that you want to add widgets to your home screen, how would you choose widgets from among the endless options available? Even if widgets are available, how do you decide which ones will best serve you? The answer lies in the existence and value of different widgets as determined by their utility and usefulness for your needs.

In essence, we want to add widgets that make our lives easier, and which will therefore make our lives better. App icons are small programs that perform small tasks. They give the user an easy way to add widgets to the home screen, but their presence is hardly ever noticed because their purpose is so unnoticeable. They sit there, unnoticed, until one day you need them. Suddenly, you notice them and you open the program that they run, and voila!

We can think of the existence of widgets as giving rise to a certain aesthetic quality in our lives. This aesthetic quality may be different for different people: some may find that having widgets on their home screen makes it visually appealing; others may find that widgets make it easier to access information; still others may find that having widgets on their home screen makes it difficult to tap and use the phone. A third group of people may find no aesthetic quality in widgets and choose not to add them to their phones at all. (It should be noted that these three groups exist in inverse correlation; having more widgets on your phone does not necessarily mean having a better aesthetic experience.)

Aesthetics are thus not a function of function per se; rather, what is cultural aesthetic is determined by culture and society in general. Thus, widgets are products that make life easier or more pleasant and widgets that fit into a culture and society are products that make life less pleasurable. widget manufacturers know this, which is why we see so many widgets on corporate phones. And so do designers.

What is cultural aesthetic is therefore nothing cultural at all; it is nothing determined by the will of people, but is determined by culture. We cannot tell from the content of a widget whether or not it will fit a certain culture or society, and we do not even know if there is a standard to determine aesthetic quality. (It would be interesting to find such a standard.) But we do know that widgets add aesthetic value to our phones and that widgets help us maintain our balance in a digital world.

What is cultural aesthetic? Culture! It determines what is artistic and what is functional, and it gives us a framework from which to judge the aesthetic quality of the things we do. We see this aesthetic quality in the things that we value in our lives, and in the things that are built by humans, and in the standards that they impose on themselves. Now I know you are still scratching your head, because the question of what is cultural aesthetic has no definite answer, as there is no standard of aesthetic quality that can be objectively measured.