Via Jesse Baron/Sianne Ngai, cuteness is an aesthetic of powerlessness, which may be used to defuse our deep suspicion of technology which is too powerful.
In her essay “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde,” Sianne Ngai, a professor at Stanford, theorizes cuteness as an “aesthetic of powerlessness.” In the face of the overwhelming question — “What’s it for?” — a strain of avant-garde art responds by playing up its inutility, she argues. It magnifies its impotence until “it begins to look silly.” Ngai’s concerns, admittedly, weigh heavier than any app or Disney-movie soundtrack: she deals in her essay with Beckett, Adorno, and Stein. But one of her key observations, that we tend to read cuteness as evidence of “restricted agency” rather than as evidence of concealed and significant power, proves useful when looking at the visual language of apps. (Source)
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