Hello aura? Are you there?

Chloe  (Scribe), Kate

As Kate and I sat down on a Sunday evening in the library, we agreed that the Frankfurt School offers an interesting connection between technology and culture, especially during a time where our society often defines our identity by our very interpersonal relationship with technology, group chats, Facebook, etc. Kate and I both felt that the Frankfurt article reminded us of our Blogging the Globe class, which is a Global Studies elective on the underreported stories of media. We noticed the connection between the Frankfurt School and our Blogging the Globe class because large corporations seeking a profit today control media. These corporations are searching for quantity (of money) versus quality of what they are reporting. We become objects subjected to news placed in front of us, rather than active participants. This idea left us feeling a little uncertain and cheated by our society that is supposed to pride itself on “democracy.” We then asked the question, what does this say about the reproduction of our culture? If our culture is becoming so infiltrated with technology, then what will our culture look like ten, fifty, one-hundred years down the line? And ultimately, will technology overtake culture so that culture is just a part of a society driven by technology?

These questions led us to discuss the Illuminations article by Walter Benjamin. This article discussed the idea of art being replicated and mechanically reproduced. It mentioned the notion of “aura” – the authenticity that surrounds a piece of original work. This concept of authenticity in the original versus ordinary in the mass reproduction reminded us of the scene from the movie Mona Lisa Smile where the great Julia Roberts plays the role as a free thinking art professor at the all girls conservative university of Wellesley. The core of the movie displays Roberts challenging her young women students to defy their societal roles. In one scene, Roberts gives her class the lecture on “Paint by Numbers.” Roberts showed how Vincent Van Gogh died without ever being known as a tremendous artist because he didn’t want to conform; yet, now his prints are all over the world and one can even paint their own “VanGogh” masterpiece. Yet, we wondered if the aura, mentioned in Illuminations, is there? We connected this to Marx and Gramsci in the sense that this idea of conformity and masses exist and how the dominant forces are at work. It’s this part of society that is forgetting uniqueness and promoting conformity. We asked if other aspects of culture that are unique are today going to be subjected to mass conformity and reproduction in the future. Things that make us unique today- our clothing style, how we decide to decorate our houses, the music we listen to- will all that be subjected to conformity in the near future? Will I be dressed exactly the same as the girl sitting next to me in class? Will we become walking replicates of each other? While discussing this, we couldn’t help but feel that this is already beginning to occur in our society… Although not to the extreme, but being on the SLU campus, similarities and conformities are ever so slightly noticeable. This left us with the ending question. Are we losing our own individual aura to society?

I’m attaching the scene from Mona Lisa Smile where Julia Roberts presents the class with “Paint by Numbers” which we related to Benjamin’s “Illuminations.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5SZ5UcmROY

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