We began our discussion by addressing question 5 on the handout from class regarding whether or not digital technology alters the theory of painting versus photography quantitatively or qualitatively? McKenzie suggested that there was a shift from quantitative to qualitative because as art forms such as portraits were reproduced in larger numbers and more people had access to the technology of photography, there was a greater emphasis on the quality of the art produced. For example, McKenzie said that if more people have access to cameras, the quantity of the images is increased, causing people to demand better quality art amongst the large amount produced. In addition, this changes the way people participate or interact with the art. As stated by Benjamin, “quantity has been transmuted into quality. The greatly increased mass of participants has produced a change in the mode of participation” (32). We interpreted this quote as meaning that with the increased access to digital technology, more people are able to interact with the art and participate than before. This shift from quantity to quality then relates to socioeconomic class. We used the announcement of Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X to make a connection to how this shift takes place today. Companies such as Apple produce products that are very expensive to the majority of consumers at first, appealing to higher economic classes. When these technologies become more outdated and as a result less expensive, a high quantity of these products is owned by members of society since a larger quantity of people can afford the products. However, Apple then must produce a product that claims to be of higher quality to appeal to those from higher socioeconomic classes since they want these better quality, and more expensive, products. This cycle of high quantity to high quality continues as newer models are produced based on demand.
After this discussion on quantity and quality, I pointed out a critique of Benjamin. He does not make the direct connection between art as a superstructure and art as the base (mechanical reproduction). While he hints at its relationship to Marx and Communism, Benjamin never asserts the significance between this link. McKenzie suggested possibly his intention was not to write about the role of art in molding or supporting the ideologies of the ruling class, but this is a critical connection he should have addressed. Some quotes we found in regard to this connection include “the growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two aspects of the same process” and “Communism responds by politicizing art” (33-34). In addition, Benjamin talks about Marx and the transformation of the superstructure. He states, “The transformation of the superstructure, which takes place far more slowly than that of the structure, has taken more than that of the substructure, has taken more than half a century to manifest in all areas culture the change in the condition of production” (18). McKenzie and I came to the agreement that Benjamin explores art as a superstructure, but fails to make the connection that it is part of the base as well through mechanical reproduction. We believe this paper would be stronger if it more directly discussed art as the base.
This is an excellent discussion!