Call for Papers: ‘Beyond Human: The Aesthetics of Nature and Technology’

Bacteria under a microscope

Dr Michael Newall, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art, Alice Helliwell, PhD candidate in History and Philosophy of Art and David Brown, PhD candidate in Film are organising the 6th Annual British Society of Aesthetics‘ Postgraduate Conference with the theme ‘Beyond Human: The Aesthetics of Nature and Technology’. The conference will be hosted by the Aesthetics Research Centre at the School of Arts on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 February 2020.

Postgraduate students and early-career researchers are invited to submit paper proposals for the conference. The aim of this conference is to bring together aesthetic discussions of two core drivers of change in our world: nature and technology. Our relationship with and aesthetic understanding of the world and its objects is changing. Now more than ever, how we think of our environment and our place within it is being shaped by both rapid developments in technology and our increasing awareness of the precarity of the natural world.

These developments in relation to nature and technology have the potential to fundamentally change our understanding of many concepts in aesthetics. Art is increasingly making use of new technologies; artists are relying on algorithms and computational processing whilst Artificial Intelligence is advancing into near-autonomous artistic creation. At the same time, we are seeing a return in the analytic tradition of aesthetics towards discussions of value in the natural world. The emergence of environmental aesthetics, for instance, has seen a renewed interest in the aesthetics of nature and human environments. Both these trends challenge us now to focus on aesthetic issues that go beyond human.

The organisers welcome papers that will broadly address aesthetic questions relating to nature and technology, such as (but not limited to):

  • Art and the non-human (non-human animals, cyborgism, AI)
  • Art consumption and new technologies
  • Art of the Anthropocene / climate change
  • Art production and new technologies
  • Artistic ecosystems: spaces of exhibition, materials
  • Environmental aesthetics
  • Landscape
  • Neo-humanism, transhumanism
  • Non-human cognition and the aesthetic experience
  • Validity of the nature / technology dichotomy


Submissions are invited for two types of papers: traditional and ‘reversed’.

Traditional papers are to present an argument or viewpoint for 25 minutes, followed by a 15-minute Q&A session.

For ‘reversed presentations’, rather than holding the questions for the end of the paper, they will come at the beginning of each paper. This format invites selected participants to give a five-minute talk on a research question which they are struggling with or a particularly challenging or controversial issue which they are addressing in their dissertation, after which there will be 15 minutes of discussion. The audience will be invited to propose possible solutions, alternative approaches, and suggestions for further reading. The inversion of the traditional Q&A format is designed for postgraduates to make use of the wealth of expertise and knowledge at the conference. If you are in the early stages of a PhD, or perhaps an MA student developing a PhD proposal this session will be highly beneficial, though all are welcome to send in submissions.

For traditional paper presentations, please submit an abstract of no longer than 600 words excluding bibliography. For reversed presentations, the abstract should be no longer than 150 words excluding bibliography. For both presentation formats, please also include a short bio in a separate document. All submissions must be prepared for blind review, so please do not include any identifying information in your abstract.

A £60 travel grant will be awarded to all postgraduate students (excluding students from the University of Kent) whose papers or proposals for either the traditional presentation or reversed presentations session have been accepted. Their conference registration fee will also be waived.

There will also be limited additional travel grants for overseas students whose papers have been accepted and, subject to budgetary constraints, also for UK-based postgraduate speakers whose travel costs are significantly high. The number of these additional travel bursaries will be allocated on a case-by-case basis

Please send your abstracts for consideration by 1 November 2019 to

Should you have any questions about the conference, please do not hesitate to contact the organisers.