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International Summer School on Digital Aesthetics

29th May – 1st June 2023, Lake Como.


In 1936 the philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote about a great change triggered by the technological reproduction of images. Photography and cinema were transforming not only the forms of art, but also the way humans perceived the world. It was the human way of looking at things that was deeply modified. Through these new technologies, humans were learning to come closer to objects and to play with their images. “Optics” and “touch” were becoming strictly intertwined. Today, this idea of an essential change in our way of perceiving the world has become true in a way that largely exceeds Benjamin’s expectations. Digital technologies have become more than just an instrument. Rather, they have also become an environment in which we move, permeating our experience of the world.

The summer school will be organised by the University of Milan in collaboration with the European Seminar of Aesthetics – an international network of academics and researchers founded in 2014 with the aim of fostering critical debate on key topics in aesthetics (https://sites.unimi.it/eu_aesthetics/about/) – and with the Milano Painting Academy (https://www.milanopaintingacademy.it/mpa/). It will address the new challenges faced by aesthetics in the digital era. Aesthetics is a discipline that was born in 1700, in a cultural and historical context far removed from the present. However, from the beginning, aesthetics constituted itself as a philosophical investigation of the “sensible knowledge” (Baumgarten), i.e. of the sensory way in which humans experience the world. For this reason, it is an important duty of aesthetics to understand how this experience changes in the context of the new digital technologies.

In fact, the digital reproduction, creation, transformation and diffusion of images, videos, texts and sounds affects not only the domain of art (with the origin of new forms of art such as digital photography, video art, digital art and, more recently, AI art), but in a broader sense, different aspects of our everyday life, too. In fact, through digital technologies everyday life often acquires a strong aesthetic value (let’s think of food photographs, selfies, travel pictures on blogs and social networks…). Moreover, through digital content, we build and convey identities, tastes and desires.

Through an interdisciplinary dialogue among philosophers of aesthetics, philosophers of science, artists, photographers, scholars of visual culture and media studies, the summer school will address four important aspects of digital aesthetics, which will correspond to the four sections (one and a half days each) of the program:

  1. Digital aesthetics and values. Digital images and texts have become an expression of values, which are shared by an increasingly large number of subjects. The first day of the school will reexamine the connection between aesthetic experience and values. In fact, values don’t originate from a propositional process. Rather, they are primarily something which has to be felt. Emotions, sensible experience of the world, and values are strictly intertwined. For this reason, it is particularly important to investigate how values can be created, transformed and communicated through digital content. Can digital content convey a true or authentic experience of values? Can the transformative power of digital technologies help to keep values alive? Or is it bound to bury them under a great quantity of fakes instead? These are some of the questions that will be addressed on the first day.
  2. Digital photography. At its origins, photography has often been considered not so much as art, but rather as a reproduction of reality. Nevertheless, many photographers have utilised this technology as an extraordinary means to express content in an original way. With digital photography, the transformative power of pictures has become even more evident. Digital photographs can be manipulated at every step: colours, lights and even subjects can be changed and adapted to express the author’s intentions. Can digital images still be considered as “photographs”? What is their relationship to reality? How can digital photographs tell the truth or (in connection with the first day of the school) convey true values? These are some of the topics that will be discussed.
  3. Art and artificial intelligence. A very interesting type of art that emerged recently is certainly the art made through artificial intelligence. Can an artificial intelligence be creative? Who is the author of these works, is it the human artist or the algorithm? What does this type of art have to say on the new presence that the AI represents in our society? These are some of the questions that will be addressed during the third day of the summer school.
  4. Colour and drawing in the digital age. Colour and drawing have often been considered as two opposite poles of the visual artistic process. Drawing has typically represented the ideal aspect of the picture, the project which the artist can realise and control. Colour, on the contrary, was often regarded as the vehicle of emotion and sensible pleasure. For this reason, it was considered sometimes dangerous and difficult to regulate. In the Nineteenth Century, as it is well known, both colour and drawing became increasingly independent from the reproduction of reality and acquired an autonomous expressive power. Yet what is happening today, in the context of digital images? How have colour and drawing changed, and with it, the relationship between them? These are some of the questions that will be raised during the third and last day of the school, in a dialogue that will involve also the Milano Painting Academy (https://www.milanopaintingacademy.it/mpa/).


The School is directed toward PhD students, advanced masters students and postdocs. In order to participate, it is necessary to have a bachelors degree (three years). It is not necessary for participants to have studied philosophy; other fields are also welcome, since the philosophical questions will be raised through an interdisciplinary approach, involving performative arts, technology, figurative arts etc.

Participants will have the opportunity to prepare a short talk (5 minutes, 1 page length) and later elaborate upon it in a paper. The best papers will be selected to be published in a special issue of the journal “Itinera” (https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/itinera). The last edition of our summer school, Aesthetics Technique and Emotion (https://aeat.lakecomoschool.org/) was the subject of “Itinera”, 19, 2020: https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/itinera/issue/archive

The registration fee will be €160 per person. A minimum of 15 students will be required to start the school. Accommodation is not included, but you can find some suggestions on the accommodation page.

HOW TO APPLY: Prospective participants are required to fill out and submit the form at the below link and upload a PDF file (max. 2MB) including a CV.

  • Deadline for registration: April 20th, 2023
  • Notification of acceptance: April 27th, 2023
  • Register here


Maddalena Mazzocut-Mis (Università degli Studi di Milano) 
Carole Talon-Hugon (Paris, Sorbonne)
Andrea Mecacci (Università di Firenze)
Claudio Rozzoni (Università degli Studi di Milano)
Laura Aimo (Università Cattolica di Milano) 
Andrea Scanziani (Università di Milano) 
Luca Malavasi (Università di Genova) 
Linda Bertelli (IMT, Lucca)
Sara Romani (Università di Colonia)
A. Somaini (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3)
R. Eugeni (Università Cattolica di Milano)
A. Barale (Università di Milano)
Elena Tavani (Università di Napoli L’Orientale)
A. I. Miller (University College, London)
Katherine Thomson-Jones (Oberlin College and Conservatory) 
Anna Maria Monteverdi (Università degli Studi di Milano) 
Kamilia Kard (Artist)

The full program can be viewed here.