Borges and Benjamin

I really enjoyed the readings this week, particularly the Library of Babel. I was really struck by the passage: "when it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon." I connected this to the digital, the promise of the digital archive to provide a solution seemingly at the touch of our fingertips and its ability to hold all the world's knowledge (the knowledge that we choose to place there). This reminded me of our past discussions surrounding the archive. 

I was also struck by the idea of reproduction in Benjamin's work and the idea that art is being designed for reproducibility; this idea in particular extends to the digital age. Works are now being produced for a digital medium, art designed to be retweeted and re-shared via a community. This ties into how cult value is being replaced by exhibition value; works of art are now meant to be displayed and the once sacred process of art-making through ritual, intended for the gods, is now, as Benjamin puts it, hidden. Quantity is another issue in Benjaimin's piece that relates to the digital; he notes that "quantity has been transmuted into quality," meaning that the quality of a piece of art is now determined by the number of its reproduction. A modern example of this at work is a popular YouTube channel, the videos becoming quality pieces of film by the number of times they are viewed or liked rather than the actual technique of filming or another aesthetic quality. 

The digital provides a platform for more reproducible art and a space that acts as an archive, as problematic and challenging as those concepts are. I'm looking forward to class discussion.