Distribution Automatique

Saturday, November 22

Walter Benjamin-
Selected Writings-
Volume 4- 1938-1940

from *The Work of Art
in the Age of Its
Reproducibility: Third Version*

"The masses are a matrix
from which all customary
behavior toward works of
art is today emerging newborn.
Quantity has been transformed
into quality: *the greatly increased
mass of participants has produced
a different kind of participation.*
The fact that the new mode of
participation first appeared in a
disreputable form should not mislead
the observer. Yet some people have
launched spirited attacks against
precisely this superficial aspect of
the matter....Distraction and
concentration [serstreuung und
Sammlung] form an antithesis, which
may be formulated as follows. A person
who concentrates before a work of
art is absorbed by it; he enters into
the work, just as, according to legend,
a Chinese painter entered his completed
painting while beholding it. By contrast,
the distracted masses absorb the work
of art into themselves....Even the
distracted person can form habits. What
is more, the ability to master certain tasks
in a state of distraction proves that their
performance has become habitual. The
sort of distraction that is provided by
art represents a covert measure of the
extent to which it has become possible
to perform new tasks of apperception. Since,
moreover, individuals are tempted to
evade such tasks, art will tackle the most
difficult and most important tasks wherever
it is able to mobilize the masses. It does so
currently in film. *Reception in distraction-
the sort of reception which is increasingly
noticeable in all areas of art and is a symptom
of profound changes in apperception- finds
in film its true training ground.*....*All efforts
to aetheticize politics culminate in one point. That
one point is war.* War, and only war, makes it
possible to set a goal for mass movements on
the grandest scale while preserving traditional
property relations.That is how the situation
presents itself in political terms. In technological
terms it can be formulated as follows: only war
makes it possible to mobilize all of today's
technological resources while maintaining
property relations."


Exactly what Benjamin is saying here about
film can be applied to blogging. He is saying
that art tries to counteract the use of technological
resources for ensuring the continuity of property
relations through war by increasing modes of
apperception which are otherwise
difficult to maintain and
acquire. New popular modes
of disseminating
creative ideas,
like film,according to Benjamin,
can enhance perception in the masses by teaching modes
of apperception by reorganizing modes of
perception in states of distraction (multiple,
and frequently traumatic bombardment of data).

In my view, blogging similarly
introduces a new means of making
art that is collaborative, communal and active, and
encourages an assertive, verbalizing, organizing,
potentially consistent
collaborative, yet individually
response to social trauma
and the bombardment
of propagandistic data: disinformation
designed to increase
consumption, passive compliance
and neutralize
independent thinking,
resistence and spontaneous organization
and defiance of authoritarian control.

Blogging has also the potential of
disrupting conventional
thinking about forms of creative exchange
and speculation, including poetry,
literary criticism, literary theory,
fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, political
science, sociology, etc. This is so
because of its immense expandibility,
its potential for spontaneity,
and the possbility of
constant transformation
and exchange and self-examination
through communication,
and also because
it may conduct its work
outside the usual
publication, institutional,
and nationalistic frames.
Since contributions
can be so quickly evaluated
disseminated and built upon,
it is not so necessary to
susain so strictly the traditional
categories of creative
expression. Visual and verbal
combinations are more readily
available than ever so that
the traditional distinctions and
professional or semi-professional
specializations may no longer be
as necessary. This has been anticipated
by many forms of hybrid creation
in many genres.

The daily format of blogging
also contributes to the
freshness and revitalization
of the exchange of ideas
and creations, and deemphasizes
the trumpeting of the significance
of any one contribution, hopefully
contributing to the creation
a more egalitarian artistic and reporting milieu.
Just as critics at the time decried
the artistic significance of photography
and film, critics today make the same
sort of pronouncements about blogging.