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Steven Aishman

PhD Work

The Effect of Digital Practice on Meaning in Everyday Life

How have digital practices changed the construction of meaning in everyday life? My research investigates the boundaries of the ‘digitization of our existence’ (Claire Bishop) in everyday life through the simultaneous production of visual artworks and a written thesis. The combination of written and visual knowledge, forms a critical theoretical framework comprised equally of both parts.

My examination focuses on the effects of the collapse of the “reader” (along Eco’s semiotic sense), as every user of digital data is explicitly both a reader and a contributor to meaning (eg. a redditor: reader/editor) due to the effects of metadata. On digital platforms like YouTube, every time there is a click on a link, that click is registered in the metadata and that metadata affects the ranking of the link, hence affecting the meaning of the link to future readers. Metadata has been designed so that is impossible to read anything without also directly affecting its meaning, and therefore metadata transforms every reader into a redditor.

My research asks if digital data be modelled as a “city”. If so, can de Certeau’s concepts of “walking in the city” be applied to the Internet to distinguish between the “strategies” of producers and “tactics” of consumers? How is this model complicated by the notion of the redditor, where users of the Internet can be producer/consumers? Extending this metaphor, can digital practices become a site of creative resistance through use of tactics?

The primary method of my research is the tactic of producing digital artwork that examines the everyday. The artwork is comprised of depicting that which is most obvious in my life and actions that are overlooked because they have become habit. My research employs Georges Perec’s method of examining the habitual to map the geography of meaning in my life and in so doing, resists the placement of my life within institutional strategies.

Keywords: practice-based research; redditor; everyday; Perec; de Certeau;


  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Print, 2015–

  • Currently an MPhil/PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art, Aishman was recently the Photography Professor and Dean of Academic Services at Savannah College of Art and Design (Georgia/Hong Kong). Aishman has taught photography and cultural theory at institutions such as Harvard University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, among others. Aishman has his undergraduate degree in Astrophysics from Princeton University and his Masters in Photography from Tufts University. His current research explores how digital practices have changed the construction of meaning in everyday life.

  • Degrees

  • AB Astrophysics, Princeton, 1997; MFA, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston / Tufts University, 2001
  • Experience

  • Dean of Academics, Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta, GA, 2012-2015; Professor of Photography, Savannah College of Art and Design, Hong Kong, 2010-2012; Chair of Photography Department, Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta, GA, 2010-2012; Professor of Photography, Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA, 2004-2006; Visiting professor, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA, 2003-2004; Visiting professor, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA, 2000-2003; Teaching fellow, Harvard College, Cambridge, MA, 1999-2003; Teaching fellow, Tufts University, Medford, MA, 2002-2003
  • Exhibitions

  • the aishmans, Pinnacle Gallery, Savannah, GA, USA, 2015; the aishmans, Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, Atlanta, GA, USA, 2014; not quite art, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, Hong Kong, 2012; Steve Aishman and Jamie Warren: Recent Photographs, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA, USA, 2010; Super Flowers, Solomon Projects, Atlanta, GA, USA, 2008; Half Asian, collaboration with Ben Sloat, Front Gallery, Oakland, CA, USA, 2007; Espacios Percepciones, Coronel Dorrego Cultural Center, Dorrego, Argentina collaboration with Heidi Aishman, 2005; Muerte y Caramellos, Jose A. Mulazzi Museum, Tres Arroyos, Argentina, collaboration with Heidi Aishman, 2005; Half Asian, collaboration with Ben Sloat Safe-t-Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, USA, 2002; Heidi + Steve, Grub Street Gallery, Boston, MA, USA, 2002; September 11 Display, Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA, USA, 2002; 1/2 Asian Portrait Studio, collaboration with Ben Sloat, Immigration Museum, Boston, MA, USA, 2002; Hunting Prostate Cancer, Tufts Univeristy, Tisch Gallery, Medford, MA , USA, 2001; Selling 1/2 Japanese, Artist Foundation, Boston, MA, USA, 2001