Saturday, February 2, 2013

“Searching the lost aura” and the role of printed books in the future

As I was trying to find more perspectives of the role and the interpretation of Aura in Benjamin’s work, I found this interesting paper titled “In search of lost aura” that was presented in the panel: “The work of Art in the Age of Digital Multiplicity” at MIT during 2009 by Piret Viires, a Phd from Estonia. This paper is worth to read it because it integrates very interesting points of Benjamin’s work with today digital reproduction systems and works.

After reading Benjamin’s work I was thinking about the role of aura in this era of digital reproduction and Internet. Certainly, when Benjamin wrote this work there were only mechanical reproduction techniques for the works of art. Viires notes that “ the digital age, too, the aura of a work of art has been lost, being destroyed by digital multiplicity (Viires, 2009)”. When Viires refers to digital multiplicity he is talking about the multiple ways in which digital literature is available like digital books, blogs and he also mentions “fan fiction” as a way of works of art are losing their “aura”.
Fan fiction is specially subject of discussion for Viires because those and blogs “lack aura in Benjamin’s sense” (Viires, 2009) since they are easily and freely accessible and are “endlessly reproduced works” (Viires, 2009). Fan fiction is described as way in which readers or viewers of a book, film, TV show or comics play a role in adding new lines or chapters to some of these works. Viires notes that what motivates those readers or viewers to do this is the love they feel for this works that take them to imagine new scenes or a different ending to some of these stories. A very interesting point that he provides is when he says that due to thousands of reproductions of a work “there is no longer distance between the reader and the work, no devotion and ardent respect for a work of art” (Viires,2009)
An example of fan fiction is this supposed trailer of Twilight, which reflects a creation of some fans about their expectations for the movie:

What I think is the most important point about Viires analysis of Benjamin’s work is when he discusses that there are some authors that are refusing this idea of the aura of their work disappearing in the digital age. More specifically, he sees printed books as elitist art forms that can be distinguished from Internet literature in mass consumption. This notion will mean a transition between the “postmodernist multiplicity of art forms” and the “modernist elitist meaning of a work of art” (Viires, 2009). Modernism would mean that the author is central and its singularity resides in their unique works of art while postmodernism suppress the boundaries between elitist art and therefore, mass culture blurs the roles of author and the reader and conceives literature as  mixture of different forms (Viires, 2009).
Finally, he discusses that the printed book “acquires an elitist significance” (Viires,2009). What I understand he is trying to say is that a printed book will become the expression of a new elite and that maybe the aura lost in the digital world can be found again with printed books. All the ideas that he exposed just makes me think that whether this means than in some years since most of the books will be digitalized and spread over these new devices such as smarthpones and iPads, the printed books would be valued as “true works of art” and thus, the people who owns it would be regarded as a new elite of readers. When I think about it, I see it might happen this but, on the other hand, I think how this might happen since most of the authors might be interested in being profitable rather than having their works regarded as works of art. It might be the case that they sell their unique works in printed version for very high prices so they can keep distribution limited to the new elite. Do you think this idea of having only printed books and the notion of elitist works of art would contribute to preserve the aura that some of the authors want to create? Do you think that when we talk about books is difficult to find the notion of aura?


Viires, P. (2009, April). In search of the Lost Aura. Panel: The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Multiplicity. Retrieved February 3, 2013, from

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