Borges and Benjamin - Art in the Internet Age

Borges was a fun story to read, if a little obvious in his metaphors/allegories when we get to specifics. But the general idea of a Librarian who is seeking to interact with books when all books have been catalogued and contained into a central structure pretty accurately and succinctly mirrors what I brought up a month or so ago; to ask us to deal with these electronic archives on a mass scale is like giving us the Enterprise and saying "Alright. You have the entire universe at your fingertips. Go find God." Borges highlights the same feelings of fear and inadequacy I know I feel when I realize just how much information is out there for us to access.


Then there's the Benjamin, which sees this electronic reproduction as a natural occurence. That makes sense. We've been reproducing stuff since time immemorial, and we're not going to stop just because there's such a thing as copyright law. He mentions though that this seems to separate the art from an inherent quality it possesses, and that this is yet another natural separation between art and the cult that the Decadents called 150 years ago. That's a major point of connection between Benjamin and Borges, though Borges still seems to be engrossed by the hidden potentialities of the texts despite the general unease of the short story.


I do find myself wanting to disagree with Benjamin, but have you ever found some 150 year old text that's simply been written out in a text document and uploaded to either Gutenberg or some other content aggregator? It's distressingly plain. Even sites like that upload PDF scans/pictures of the entire book, including its front cover and spine, add a bit of the mechanical. Not that print books aren't a mechanical process. I think my point is that the scanning/eletronic reproduction process highlights and maybe even exacerbates the mechanical aspects of production and drains a bit of what Benjamin would call the "aura" of the object away from it.