The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936) by Walter Benjamin
The work of art in the age of digital recombination (2008) by Jos de Mul
In Walter Benjamin's text, he puts forward that the technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to produce all transmitted works of art and thus cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public; like for example, when lithography began to keep pace with printing, it was surpassed by photography, the same situation being revealed, when the pictorial reproduction could keep pace with speech, it was foreshadowed by the sound film. In the age of digital recombination, we deal with the digital manipulation of nature and culture, which profoundly change the way we experience. Aesthetic experience is no exception. It is generally assumed that media play a crucial role in the configuration of the human mind and experience.
Benjamin applies the concept of aura to cult images as well as natural objects. A major quality of the cult image is its unapproachability. But in the media of mechanical reproduction the whole distinction between original and copy loses its meaning. The value in photography and film, contradictory to cult works, is precisely situated in the endless reproduction of the copies. So as to say, the value being produced in different phase of technology development varies. In this epochal essay Benjamin investigates how mechanical reproduction transforms the work of art, claiming that in this ontological transformation the cult value, which once characterized the classical work of art, has been replaced by exhibition value. After permitting reproduction to meet audiences in its own particular situation, it in return reactivates reproductions . Film is the most representative agent, liquidating of the traditional value of the cultural heritage. Jos de Mul points out in his assay that in the age of digital recombination, in this transformation the exhibition value is being replaced by what we might call manipulation value.
In the age of digital recombination, all media art works share some basic characteristics, four basic operations of persistent storage. It consists of the operations Add, Browse, Change, and Destroy, which correspond to the structured query language(SQL) commands Insert, Select, Update, and Delete - constitute the dynamic elements of what we might call a database ontology. Database ontology is dynamic, because the data elements can be constantly combined, decombined, and recombined. In the age of digital databases, everything - nature and culture alike - becomes an object for recombination and manipulation. As the number of recombination of a database is almost infinite, the work of art in the age of digital recombination brings about a return of the aura. Especially in those cases where the user is enabled to change the contents of the database and insert new elements in the database, each query becomes a unique recombination. The aura located no longer in the history of the work, but in its virtuality.