Mechanical Reproduction of the Internet

I’ve been reading Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (PDF) as a part of the Communication studies class I’m taking at Athabasca. It’s dense, but makes a lot of sense to me. Particularly his writing about film, and how anyone can be an “actor” in film, sometimes by accident even. Certainly that might have been the case in the 1920’s, but as further commercialization of the film industry occurred, less people and more “actors” appear in constructed states. Sure, documentaries are different, but the expectation of reality in a documentary is much higher than a film. ┬áTo me, this is the same sort of premise that YouTube and video sharing sites get people to contribute content – even you can be the object of attention on YouTube. I see parallels between early film and online video, with a big exception – online video has years of experience with video and film to draw upon so it’s been getting quicker up to speed. Online video where everyone can be an actor is slowly giving way to online actor, but without an audience. Celebrity and online personas are becoming big business, which means as soon as advertising figures out how to get their products placed, and I’m sure they have already figured it out, they’ll really start investing in the folks who are online. I’ve seen my kid, who is an online producer and re-producer, scrutinize someone else’s room online as well as look for clues as to who a person is through their videos. This is advertising at it’s best, getting that word of mouth without paying a dime in ads.

In many ways, advertisers haven’t had to cajole or convince us, we often do the promotion for them. I talk fondly of Desire2Learn, who haven’t paid me to say so, but I do so because I think their product is superior to Blackboard. No one convinced me to say that. At least I think no one convinced me to say that. Or write that. Oh… slippery slope here I go!