Archive for September, 2008

Are We Losing Our “Aura”?

While browsing through Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (a required reading for my class on mass communications) I couldn’t help but to pause on one particular section.

“For centuries a small number of writers were confronted by many thousands of readers. This changed toward the end of the last century. With the increasing extension of the press, which kept placing new political, religious, scientific, professional, and local organs before the readers, an increasing number of readers became writers-at first, occasional ones. It began with the daily press opening to its readers, space for “letters to the editor.” And today there is hardly a gainfully employed European who could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances, documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character.”

The reason that I stopped on this passage is because, although written in 1935, it reflects so perfectly what is happening in the current electronic atmosphere.
It has become so effortless for any individual to offer an opinion on any subject whether or not they have particular knowledge or experience about it. Benjamin also mentions the amount of different “organs” that the press has made available to the reader. While this was true in that era, this phenomenon has only grown larger as time has progressed. The wide number of outlets existing has made the distinction between reader and writer virtually nonexistent.
What would Walter Benjamin think of today’s YouTube and Facebook and blogs?

Benjamin, Walter.  “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”  23 Sept. 2008.


Putting the “You” in “Tube”

In my last post, I posed the idea that the public domain had become almost too public; that maybe the doors were open too wide. While there are currently many media that support this desire for self-expression (including the one that I’m using right now, the blog) none have had quite the same impact in so little time as the medium that is YouTube.
Launched in 2005, the website has become the premier destination for every Dick, Joe and Harry to produce and air anything that they happen to capture on the home video camera. But it’s not even just for the amateur with a handycam. Click onto youtube and you can find everything from music videos for too-cool-for-school indie bands (, step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect quiche (, or even campaign videos from presidential hopefuls ( And, of course, you can always come to find videos of people making fools of themselves to help you pass the time when you’re in class or the office.
Because that’s what YouTube is: it’s for everyone and can be used by everyone.
Which is one of the very reasons why it has grown so large so quickly.  From a media ecologist standpoint, the culture that YouTube has helped to create is wide reaching. From its original purpose of offering a simple outlet to allow people to share their personal videos, it has morphed into a multifunctional medium. YouTube is now the place where stars can be made and where the average person may be able to find the warm glow of fifteen minutes of fame.
So, go ahead, broadcast yourself.

Putting the “Me” in Media

I think that it is important to note that this is my first experience with the medium of the blog. Because of this fact, I thought that it was best to do my research and shop around at some established sites to see exactly how things are done. To dip my toes in the ocean of blogs before diving in head first.
After going to various academic blogs kept by students and professionals, I decided to see what a not-quite-so academic blog looked like. While spending far too much time on Perez Hilton’s pages looking at rude comments splayed on the photos of starlets, I came to the conclusion that a blog is a blog no matter what one writes about. Whether someone is ranting about the failures of the current political party or another person is questioning why Brittany Spears decides to go out in public without underwear. In either case, the blog has served its purpose. It has given an international platform for the thoughts and musings of an individual.
The doors are open wider then ever for self-expression. However, the question is whether they are open too wide; if it is really necessary to hear the two cents of every person with an Internet connection.
At the risk of adding to the congestion of opinions, I’ll be writing my thoughts on this form of mass communication, my newly created blog. However, because it is now so easy to fill the public sphere with useless blathering, I will try my hardest to contribute something of worth.