The readings this week were definitely thought-provoking, and Richard Lanham’s article in particular made me think back to past readings and reflect on how far we have come.
I primarily thought about what “aura” guru Walter Benjamin would say about “stuff.” Does the sheer amount of stuff we have take away from the aura of each of the stuff? Does information itself even have an aura? Can “what we think about stuff” have any real meaning to Benjamin? Are Lanham and Benjamin getting at the same point – that “the world of real places and the stuff in them seems to be evaporating before our stuff-clouded eyes” (Lanham)?
We are a culture with reality shows about hoarders. I don’t believe those people care at all about any of the stuff that they are hoarding. For some reason, people have convinced themselves that they need that stuff, but I don’t think they would miss it if it were gone. Benjamin would truly not get along with me if he were alive today, as I have been on a kick lately that I don’t need to keep actual items for memories – I can just take a picture of it and put the picture in a photo album and then get rid of the actual memorabilia. I am just killing the aura of all sorts of things!
When I went to UNL’s Think Tank in 2011, Clint! Runge from Archrival said people born in the ’70s and early ’80s measure success by their “stuff” – how big their big screen TV is or how big their houses are. People born after about 1983 measure success by experiences in their lives – such as studying abroad or making a social change, no matter how big or small – which I suppose may translate to “fluff.” Lanham’s discussion about tourism reminded me of this presentation by Runge. This generation of people born after 1983, by choosing to put more importance on experience and worldly travels, has actually harmed the environment. As Lanham said, “Tourism, invented to restore our naïve wonder at strange places, destroys them instead.” Naivety indeed.
On a work-related note, when reading the Gallagher article, I noticed he mentioned mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. A math professor from Penn State, George Andrews, will be here on campus on April 25 to discuss his discovery of a lost notebook of Ramanujan’s. To find out more about Andrews and his talk, as well as read the abstract, check out the math department’s Rowlee Lecture Series website.