Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction poses to the reader interesting ideas about how a work of art can be manipulated and changed through issues such as reproduction, distribution and audience.
Benjamin attributes to these artworks an ‘aura’ stating that “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art” (p. 223). The implication here is that as the mechanical reproduction of art increases, the aura, the authenticity of art will decrease and perhaps even disappear.
Technology has advanced a great deal since the article was published in the 1930s. The invention of digital technology poses a particularly interesting question in regards to Benjamin’s theories surrounding the authenticity of the work being largely attributed to the ability to trace a reproduction to an original artwork. In the age of digital artwork, for example, digital photography, one could argue that no original exists. While there is a copy of a photo on a camera which can be transferred onto a computer or USB, who can say which is the original? Film photography has an original, tangible artefact in the negative which is produced when the photo is taken.
According to Benjamin, would digital art thus be deemed void or unauthentic due to the lack of an original, tangible source for much of the content that is used? Do these new artworks lack in the aura that traditional artworks like the Mona Lisa were so abundant in?
Perhaps in the time of Benjamin, the mechanical reproduction of an artwork would indeed cause it to lose some of the aura that was attached to it. However, in the age of digital technology, one must concede that the nature of art is rapidly changing and no longer incorporates only the tangible, but the digital as well. While there may not be an original artwork as there once was, the legitimacy of this type of art and the artists who create it cannot be undermined or dismissed.
Benjamin, W., 1973 ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, Illuminations, London: Fontana 1973: 219-53.
Science has always seemed to be a somewhat closed area of study. John Wilbanks writes that “the paper-based status quo relies on strictly enforced barriers to public access that prevent the rapid dissemination of vital knowledge”. He continues to write about the changing nature of the industry, with the digital revolution pushing content online, with physical scientific journals (eventually) becoming obsolete. While this is not a new phenomenon with other media such as books, music, movies and television all becoming digitised, it does bring into light the issues surrounding the accessibility of this information.
While we should, as a society, attempt to close the gap between the educated and less educated, the digitisation of these journals may hinder this attempt. Whereas before, a person who wished to view these journals could go to a library and do so, online versions of the same information require a username and password to access the information. While the information is indeed meant to be read by a certain section of society – educators, scientists, students etc – the information should not by any means be limited to them, and it seems this is what will transpire when paper journals cease to be produced.
Education is no longer seen as a privilege but a right, and the means to achieve this education would seemingly fall under this idea. Thus, while technology is indeed advancing and will see the field of science make great leaps and jump in the upcoming years, the distribution of this information needs to be made available to any person who seeks it.
Wilbanks eloquently states this when he remarks that:
“Science publishing isn’t just an industry. It’s also the core factory for knowledge transfer in the world. It has been since 1665, when the first journal was published asPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. And we need to think about the knowledge first—that’s why these were called philosophical transactions, not economic ones”.
Wilbanks, J., 2011. On Science Publishing. Available at: <http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/on_science_publishing/> Accessed: 10 May 2011
Social media has become increasingly prevalent in society. Websites such as Twitter and Facebook have become a vehicle for social change as can be seen in the recent revolutions in Egypt. The ramifications of these riots will resonate throughout the world for a while to come. However, it is the use of social media and how this may affect future governments that I wish to look at.
Nikki Usher refers to Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz in her article How Egypt’s Uprising Is Helping Redefine the Idea of a “Media Event” and discusses how some events can transcend from a news event and become a media event. An event treated with reverence by both broadcasters and the online community. It was the use of media such as Twitter and Facebook that allowed the individuals to instigate this revolution but also ensured that this event became one of global significance.
The riots in Egypt demonstrated how a media tool used primarily for the purpose of entertainment could be re-appropriated for a new purpose. While the revolution was not due to these various social networking tools, they certainly were used by protestors to communicate to a large number of people instantaneously – spreading the message to both the people in Egypt and across the world as the global nature of these sites allowed the event to be picked up all over the world.
But what do these revolts mean for the government not only in Egypt but worldwide? While it will be a while before all the effects of this revolution will be seen, it seems that tyranny will no longer be tolerated where a system of democracy is demanded by citizens. It must also be said that the social networking websites that helped to realise this revolution are still in their infancy. There is no telling how people in six months, one year or even five years time may come to use these websites and how they themselves may evolve.
Usher, N,. 2008.’ How Egypt’s Uprising Is Helping Redefine the Idea of a ‘Media Event’. Accessable:http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/how-egypts-uprising-is-helping-redefine-the-idea-of-a-media-event/. Last Accessed: 10 May 2011
The debate surrounding the digital revolution and how it has affected the music industry is not new. Debates have been raging for several years now over the issue of music piracy through sites such as The Pirate Bay and Bit Torrent. There have been several landmark cases including that against the founders of The Pirate Bay, all of which have been extensively covered by both the mainstream and independent media, as well as the debate itself.
There is a clear parallel between how both the music and media industries are evolving at the moment. Both industries are developing from the more traditional physical form and entering the online world through online publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald or digital content available through both legitimate sources such as iTunes or illegal torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay.
Neither industry is dying. There will always be a need for timely news as there will always be a demand for new music. What I do find interesting though, is how mainstream media sources have framed the issue surrounding piracy. There is a leaning in the media industry to report on music piracy and the issues surrounding the digitalisation of music in a negative light. Ironically however, the media industry itself is fighting the same battle with the sale of physical newspapers and magazines dropping rapidly and, with that, advertising revenue.
While neither the media or the music industry will die, it seems that the more traditional forms of distribution will indeed cease in the near future. The industry is evolving and major companies such as Warner Music, EMI and Sony to name only a few need to reevaluate their own business models. There are many examples online of new business models that are proving successful to artists unsigned to a major label. It is only through a restructuring of traditional frameworks that the major labels and publications of both these industries will continue to exist.
The relevancy of Paul N. Edwards A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming in a society where natural disasters have become commonplace and the news has become filled with debates on global warming and climate change cannot be understated. While there have been countless publications made that revolve around the world of climate change (Edwards himself references 5000 in this one book), it is the way that he has structured his book through the use of framing and infrastructure, examining his data and theories through this method that both demonstrate how media ecologies can extend to every reach of society and how using these frameworks can shed a new light or angle onto an otherwise exhausted field.
Edwards also addresses the idea of data and media (in his case, simulation models) being opposing forces. He states that “Observing systems have changed so much and so often that you can only combine long-term records by monitoring the effects of different instrument behaviours, data collection practices, weather station site changes, and hundreds of other factors” (p. xv). Due to the way that ecologies are continually changing and the extremely complex relationships that the various facets of any one ecology can consist of, labelling any one or two facets (e.g. media and data) as something (e.g. opposing) can lead to an oversimplification of the idea where more exploration is needed.
Edwards does not only frame his theories and arguments, but frames the book for a variety of audiences. I particularly liked that Edwards had done this (p. xxi – xxiii), breaking apart his book chapter by chapter and referring different audience groups (i.e. the general public, scientists, students) to specific sections. Edwards has, at the same time, reworked both the field of study in question by applying new frameworks of study and the manner in which it can be read by applying within the book internal frameworks for a variety of social groups.
Edwards, P. N., 2010. ‘Introduction’ in A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming, MA: MIT Press
While the idea of using augmented reality to enhance or advertise a certain concept or product is certainly not a new one as discussed in Chris Grayson’s online article ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, what I find rather surprising is how the technology, which was once a novelty that the everyday person would find only when using a video game, has become so ingrained into everyday life in such a seamless way.
While the technology has been used within the military world for training purposes for quite some time, it is only recent where an everyday citizen can easily engage with this technology as well. Grayson cites several examples such as virtual hair styling sites, trying on jewelry online and organising your living room in a furniture store. What has surprised me is the way in which the technology has filtered into our lives. It has entered society almost seamlessly. There has been no real explosion of augmented reality technology like there was with the introduction of 3D technology into the living room. Companies have added augmented reality options onto their websites and into their stores as if it was just another advertisement or test drive or catalogue or selling point – which, I suppose, it is.
While the technology has clearly infiltrated everyday life, I am curious to see where it will lead to in the future. Grayson states that “We’re moving in this direction at exponential speed, the pace of progress is only going to keep moving faster”. Augmented Reality has already affected our sense of sight and to some extent touch with motion capture technology such as the Nintendo Wii, how soon will it be until we are able to perceive taste as an Augmented Reality? Will we one day be able to eat or taste food without ever having to ingest it? While it does seem like this is the way that technology is headed, it seems that only time will tell.
Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html> Accessed: 28th March 2011
The concept of memory and how we engage with our surroundings through our memory is a fascinating topic to explore. Personally, the reading ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis’ by Bernard Stiegler, which looks at the exteriorisation of memory and hypomnesis was of particular interest as the content reflected my own personal perception of modern society, though it also hinted at a future where we as humans will lose more and more control of our actions, thoughts and memory itself as our self-reliance on technology increases.
To begin with, while the exteriorisation of the human memory is a natural occurrence, as Stiegler states “Human memory is originally exteriorized”, his exploration of the concept that as technology has continually advanced in modern society, our heavy reliance on them is creating an ever growing loss of knowledge to these “techno-logical forms of knowledge”. Stiegler uses the common GPS guidance system and mobile phone to demonstrate this idea that as we exteriorise our memory to this new wave of mnemotechnologies, we are not losing our memory but displacing it.
Whereas once, with more traditional forms of externalising memory where a person may write something down, or create a sculpture or painting etc., if this object was destroyed, that particular memory was destroyed along with it. However, with these new technologically superior objects, even if they are lost or destroyed, the memory will still exist in a form somewhere, be it a phone company’s records etc. While the memory still exists somewhere, our ability to trace it down or connect back to it is near impossible or extremely difficult.
What will happen to these memories when the person from whom they originally were projected from ceases to exist? Can these displaced memories still be considered as such when the original source no longer exists? Can another person claim a stranger’s memory as their own if they so wished to?
Furthermore, what will happen to the collective knowledge of people as we continue to place such great trust in these mnemotechnological devices?
Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis> Accessed: 21st March 2010