Throughout Chapter Four Shirky discusses the aspects of media that indicate nothing is user generated. Benjamin discusses the aspect of aura and reproduction. Wiener discusses the correlation between man and its evolution into machine. These all tie into each other through one simple aspect; us. Everything we generate or produce is not unique, it has not aura, and it further connects us to the machines we use daily.
Shirky states “’user-generated content’…is something of a misnomer. When you create a document on your computer, your document fits some generic version of the phrase, but that isn’t really what user-generated content refers to” (83). This statement essentially means that when we as consumers, attempt to produce content it never truly is our content. This correlates to Benjamin’s idea of aura; everything generated or replicated has lost its uniqueness. Benjamin states; “the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition” (II). This correlates to what Shirky states because if everything we generate as users is not unique but simply a copy, everything has lost its aura. The production not only has lost its aura but it also never started with one. Aura is an important aspect to art and other original creations but due to this era of media, all art becomes a reproduction. I may have a Howard Finster framed painting in my house, but it is a replication-no aura and not user generated. I did not create the painting, I bought it and it also has no aura, no original-ness. Not only does the content we generate as users have no aura to begin with, it also draws us closer to the machine itself.
Not only does Shirky’s statement about user-generated content correlate to Benjamin’s positions, but it also correlates to Wiener’s view on the human and the machine. Wiener states “The new industrial revolution which is taking place now consists primarily in replacing human judgement and discrimination at low levels by the discrimination of the machine” (71). This quote means that we as users and consumers no longer make simple decisions in our life, the machine makes them for us. A key example is font type; when we open a word document there is already a pre-selected font and font size and most of us do not feel the need to change it. This ties in with user generated content; we do not select the font the program/machine chooses it for us. We have become so reliant upon our technology for our ideas or the manifestation of them, we are slowly relying on the machines to do the thinking for us. Another key example of reliance or turning our decisions over to machines are blogs. Blogs come with templates and we select a color swatch already selected and the type of layout and fonts we want based on recommended options. This is not necessarily the machine itself, but the program we are using selecting our content, but it is not our own content or design.
These all three writers ideas correlate in one main point we are not creators of any true original content and through those processes we are becoming more and more reliant upon the machine. Skirky’s position on user generated content has a foundation in the earlier writings of Wiener and Benjamin and their thoughts on content and people and the machine. Shirky believes that even though the barriers of communication have been lowered or dropped altogether, that does not mean our contributions to the media landscape are worthy contributions. If we are not creating true user generated or original content, then we as producers are not impacting the media as we need to.