Real For The Very First Time

Putting on academic tweed jacket, sandals and socks…

In 1936, German cultural critic Walter Benjamin wrote an essay entitled The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (entire text translated here). This post is an updated, and more specific view on that topic.

In summary, there was an interesting debate at the beginning of the 20th century among philosophers about how the definition of the real would change during the advent of artificial reproduction of sensual experience. The first case was photography — the proof of an experience came to mean a static visual representation of it. Something was real, verifiable, mattered, only if you were able to take a photograph of it.

Since the visual is such an easy sense to capture and share, i.e. reproduce, it came to matter more than other senses of an experience. Closer to the present, anyone sufficiently internet literate will recognize how easy it is to fake imagery via Photoshop, and that a photo is no longer real proof of anything. However, a photo as the standard of reality remains.

The worry, of some, is that the artificial becomes more real than real. Of course, you shouldn’t be worried about it, as you don’t have that much control over any of that anyway. It is interesting, however, that a photograph of an event from far away is more important than an eye-witness experience from close-up. In the social media-scape, there is sometimes the sensation that an event is only able to be widely disseminated if its sensations are sensationalizable.

Eventually, I’m sure we’ll bring other dimension (2D->3D cough cough) and other senses (Smell-o-vision) on board to the easily reproducible, and thus actually real, experiences.

Really, what I’m saying is that Mr. Seymour above isn’t “not real”; by getting 3D scanned. In fact, he has become real for the first time.

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