As We May Think

In his essay, Benjamin focuses on the reproduction of images and how this reproduction affects the aura, originality, and authenticity of a work of art. I believe that the definition of all three of these concepts overlap in several ways. Originality and authenticity both have the ability to define aura and vice versa. Originality and authenticity differentiate themselves in the sense that the first encompasses the artist’s thought process and intention; authenticity deals more with the time period in which a work of art was made and how this adds to its aura. Benjamin also states that forgeries of works of art (reproductions) in some cases “preserve the authority” of the original. In this sense, it is also preserving the aura of the object. However, in our modern age, the amount and speed of reproduction, as well as the speed of distribution, have allowed the aura of original objects to be disturbed (ex: ‘breaking the internet’). The fact that original objects can be portrayed through so many different platforms has taken original objects and their auras to a new level of fragility. Benjamin also discusses how the “uniqueness of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of its tradition.” However, I believe that, in modern museum environments, many people misinterpret the meanings and functionalities of many cultural objects.

In “As We May Think,” the accuracy of Bush’s predictions concerning the future advancements of technology is astonishing. Not only does he explore ideas of digital photography, but also the internet and personal computers in general. He even goes so far as to suggest inserting chips into the human brain in order to allow man to reach more logical conclusions — basically proposing the idea of morphing humans into cyborgs. So, Bush has predicted our present technology as well as potential future technologies. For example, Bush foresees a machine that is “for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library.” Basically, he has pinpointed the general idea of a personal computer (desktop, smartphone, palm pilot, etc.). He even describes the construction of a computer screen: “On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading.” He also discusses multiple window searching and word processing programs.

Bush claims that the necessity of this technology is to further the human race and allow man to have access to as much information as possible at any time. However, has this innovation in technology amplified issues described in Benjamin’s writing? (aura, originality, authenticity)

I believe that it has. We live in a remix culture where very few things are viewed as completely “original.” I believe that this idea stems from the vast pools of information that every person has been exposed to and is able to access. We are constantly stimulated by an infinitely greater number of things than people have ever been. All of these experiences are allowing us to identify inspirations in the work of others, which can sometimes be viewed as “unoriginal.”

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