Benjamin’s thought is enlightening because he put art and cultural productions in a grand background and criticize them on different levels. However, when reading his articles, I got a feeling that the narrative might be too grand in certain aspect. Benjamin seems to draw a line between fine art and pop culture, which sometimes cannot be differentiated clearly especially nowadays. He viewed the repeatability is “the stripping of the veil from the object” and “the destruction of the aura” (Benjamin, 2008). By using the metaphor of “aura”, he viewed the traditional and elite artworks as better forms. I am not sure whether there is a contradiction between this attitude and his political position. He criticized the ideology of bourgeoisie while showed individualist and elite spirit in his taste of art. His idea of “aura” has some romanticist’s nostalgia to me.
One meaning of the term “reproduce” that Benjamin uses implicates that the creators of art works deliberately make certain number of copies of the productions. However, I think this concept cannot be easily applied to the age of Web 2.0. When an Internet user creates an artwork on line, he or she usually can’t decide the number of copies of her work. It might even be not proper to count copies of online works. Even though the work can be displayed on many other users’ screens, the creator might still view it as a single creation, which is only viewed from many audiences who access the pages. There is no clear process of duplication and how the artwork is spread is largely depend on audiences’ clicks. The publics are not such passive receivers of cultural productions. Also, a digital creation doesn’t have an unique existence at the place. Benjamin’s emphasis on the context of place is attractive but sounds as Luddism nowadays.
However, this “back to the old time” inclination reminds me a book called You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, which is written by Jaron Lanior, who coined the word of “virtual reality”. But Lanier takes a different perspective than Benjamin and Bourdieu, who criticized the maintenance of ideological discourses in the social fields such as culture and media, which Bourdieu called collective misrecognition (Irvine). If these two scholars want to decode the value of art value. Lanier thinks that there are not too much meaningful value that has been newly encode into online art activities.
Lanier doubted the tendency of collective creation in the age of Web 2.0. He used to lay great hope in the new media environment of creation. However, the first ten year of this century passed, he commented with frustration that there was no new creative pattern of music which can represent 21 century (I don’t know whether he has commented on Eric Whitacre). Also, most spoofs and remixes are inferior. He set “peer production” aside from those which are real original and blamed the online conformity for causing the lack of creation. To him, The Cloud is threatening ingenuity. The real-time individuality and independent creativity are always the root of variety of ideas, art works and digital productions. For me, this argument sounds more convincing than the “aura” conception to support traditional creation pattern.
Benjamin, W. (2008). The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility, and other writings on media. Harvard University Press.P255-256
Irvine, Martin. “Cracking the Art Value Code: Thinking with Bourdiew.” Web
Lanier, Jaron (2010). You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Knopf.