Benjamin and Technology (Snooki, Cats, and War)

Our discussion group (Nicole, Tommy, Asana, Gillian, and Kat) reflected on several topics, some of which were related to class, and others were a bit astray, though they certainly proved relevant to certain theorists. We began by talking about Benjamin’s view of technology and how one sees things through the lens of the camera. We discussed how certain entertainment sites and social networking programs are very much gendered. For example, Pintrest is female dominated while Stumble Upon is mostly male dominated, and YouTube attracts both genders. We chatted about the sudden appeal of “funny cat videos” and the ridiculous amounts of views a simple video about a domesticated animal can get. Is everyone on YouTube, looking at silly pointless cats jumping off things and being weird? We wondered why there was such a huge appeal to felines….does the owner or cat-lover watch these videos because he/she can relate to the shared experience of owning such a mysterious, unpredictable animal? We could not fully grasp why there was such great pleasure in watching these YouTube videos, though many of us enjoyed them ourselves.

Then, we moved onto Benjamin and his theory of mechanical reproduction which has broadened the availability of aesthetics to the masses. We touched on war and asked each other the question, is war itself aesthetically pleasing to the eye? Can it be negative and still pleasing? Nicole mentioned the quote, “War and only war can set a goal for mass movements on the largest scale…” (p. 241). After discussing the significance of this quote, we concluded that fascism takes advantage of art to produce politics.

We then shifted to another topic, and a very fun one at that: Reality TV. We had fun with this one. Our group talked about the spectrum of reality shows on television, specifically the most popular ones currently. “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and “Honey Boo-Boo” were the main shows we talked about. Why are people, Americans in particular, so obsessed with these trashy shows? Do some viewers take them seriously and fully invest in the lives of these reality TV stars? There is definitely a variety in the people of the shows. The Kardashians are famous, wealthy, “untouchable” people, and this attracts more of the middle-class Americans. We laughed about the fact that we even occasionally watch these shows, and we generally do it for comic relief and to reassure our selves that we are not as crazy as these people on TV. Gillian stated “Thank God it’s not me!.” Then we have Honey Boo-Boo, which generally attracts lower-class and some middle-class people, who can either relate to the lifestyle depicted in the show, or who can also laugh at what they are witnessing. Do we, the mass viewers, fit into the subaltern role? Or are the “stars” on TV the subaltern group? Like Benjamin proposed, we, the viewers, can become the experts by judging and criticizing the shows. We wondered if people who watch these reality shows become more or less content with their REAL lives…is it comical or depressing?

Lastly, we ended our discussion with the quote “The result was that one could expect it not only to exploit the proletariat with increasing intensity, but ultimately to create conditions which would make it possible to abolish capitalism itself” (p. 217). Each generation seems to be evolving at a somewhat quick pace with technology, becoming more and more dependent on it.

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