Vittorio Gallese

The Aesthetic World in the Digital Era. A Call to Arms for Experimental Aesthetics

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The main gist of the present article consists in a call to arms for experimental aesthetics, motivated by the conviction that aesthetics is the still poorly investigated key entry point to a deeper understanding of how digital technologies shape our identity, our social relationships and the world where we are living. Aesthetics, as normally conceived, deals with art and beauty. Neuroscience in the last two decades started investigating the neurobiological basis of the appreciation of beauty and art. Aesthetics, however, pervades all forms of social cognition, even more so in the present digital age. The digital disintermediation of perception and meaning-making operated by the new mediascape has literally aestheticized the world. Interconnected mobile digital devices are changing the style of our interaction with images and words, multiplying our «province of meaning», projecting it into multiple dimensions beyond the reach of our naked eye. Our ontology is ever less confined to what we can directly experience through the factual bodily interaction with the «real world». Our present digitally-mediated reality moves our take on the world into novel and poorly explored dimensions, requiring a new empirical understanding and conceptualization of aesthetics. We must investigate the impact that the new digital technologies and related social practices have upon social life. Capitalizing upon the results obtained by experimental aesthetics, and privileging embodiment and the performative quality of perception and cognition, preliminary suggestions for a future research agenda can be outlined. Embodied simulation, a model of perception and cognition, can provide a new take on these issues, fostering a newly based dialogue between neuroscience and the humanities.


  • Aesthetics
  • Aesthetic Experience
  • Digital Mediascape
  • Embodied Simulation
  • Embodiment
  • Fake News
  • Relocation
  • Touch
  • Touch Screen


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