Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



There is a rich history in early critical theory of attempting to harness the power of aesthetic imagination for the purposes of political liberation. But this approach has largely faded to the background of contemporary critical theory, eclipsed lately by attempts to reconstruct and apply norms of rationality to processes of democratic will formation a` la Habermas. This paper represents a small attempt to return the aesthetic element to its proper place within critical theory, by investigating the aesthetic aspects of certain forms of resistance to technological domination, forms of resistance that become ‘‘embodied’’ in technologies themselves. The phenomena of customization and personalization of technologies, although already coopted in a variety of ways, are examples of such resistance. I begin then, by specifying the conventional method of understanding technological domination: the differentiation thesis. I then show how this understanding of technological development fails to grasp the reality of technologies as they are embodied in social contexts. A more accurate understanding of these contexts demonstrates that aesthetic imagination plays an important role in politicizing technologies, and enrolling these technologies themselves in the project of resisting the general phenomenon of technological domination. This helps us begin to understand what it might mean to translate the insights of early critical theory into a contemporary critical praxis.


Version posted here is the author's copy.