Digital Commons@RISD Home > Division of Liberal Arts > Contemporary Aesthetics (Journal Archive) > Vol. 16 (2018)
Aesthetics is often seen as a philosophical academic discipline focusing on questions about art, beauty, the nature of aesthetic experiences, and many other related issues. However, there is another, non-academic side of aesthetics where similar issues are addressed. Non-academic cases of aesthetics, on the internet and elsewhere, far outnumber anything academic aestheticians can ever produce. However, how the picture of aesthetics looks like outside academia is not necessarily very actively considered in academic contexts, as professors, lecturers, and students tend to form their understanding of the field through scholarly literature and academic datasets. In this essay, we explore how close to or far away from each other the two environments presently are, especially in digital environments. For this, we applied computational text-mining techniques on Wikipedia, Google Trends, YouTube, Open Library books and Web of Science data. Results allowed us to compare both areas and describe differences and relations between the two. This article shows that there are various contexts where issues related to aesthetics are addressed, and that the overall picture of aesthetics is created by different kinds of actors and documents. Additionally, we suggest that digital tools can and should be used in disciplines such as aesthetics to create a more comprehensible and many-sided picture of the field, while taking into consideration the risk of using these tools too narrowly and over trusting them.