Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance first introduced me to the competing concepts of the “classical” aesthetic and the “romantic” aesthetic. In short, and with apologies to Dr. Pirsig, the classical aesthetic is the ability to see beauty and meaning in systems and the interconnectivity of systems, while the romantic aesthetic is the ability to see beauty and meaning in individual objects. While these two aesthetics are not necessarily at odds with each other, I find that in my work as an academic technologist in the humanities, it really helps me to understand and exploit these distinctions.
A year or so ago, when IT was reorganizing its website, I was asked to write a blurb about what my team does. I can’t remember the exact circumstances—though it was likely a busy time—but I do remember that nobody was really satisfied with the result that lives on our Academic Information Services Web page: […]