This is a facinating and important thread. In many ways it goes to the heart of the modern creative dilemma. The issue of irregularities or imperfections may be central. As inherently irregular and imperfect beings, we may have a real psychological need for such qualities in our cultural experience to quell feelings of alienation. At the same time, who among us does not strive to eliminate imperfections in our work. Part of the appeal of digital printing is the quantum leap in our ability (at least potential!) to control imperfections in the print. I think it hard to argue that it is somehow intrinsically preferable to use highly refined analogue tools such as grain magnifiers and darkroom photometers to achieve higher degrees of precision than to use digital electronic means to do the same. Yet each ratcheting up in achievable perfection results in a subtle increase in psychic dislocation or alienation, hence the distrustful and grudging acceptance of it. (Witness the hard feelings toward digital seen on this forum.) I think that this tension between our conflicting needs for perfection and imperfection is a manifestation of future shock, i.e., the uncontrollably breakneck pace of change and the removal of comforting certainty in our lives.
I also suspect that this conflict may play a role in the inexorable shift toward the conceptual at the expense of the aesthetic over the last hundred years. (The recent rise in our midst of a conceptual artist in what is surely one of the last conservative aesthetic bastions attests to the trend.) In all areas of production, technology has made routine what used to be unattainable perfection. The anti-aesthetic thread in contemporary art may be at least partly rooted in a distrust of the "easy" attainment of perfection enabled by technology. The consequent denial of the importance of aesthetic "perfection" may be fueling the shift to the
On the other hand, it seems to me that the conceptual mode of expression dos not necessarily have to sacrifice aesthetics. To my sensibilities, however, it mostly does. Maybe reconciling the two is the way forward.