Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction – Lifehacker and GTD

If you haven’t already, I highly suggest that you read Walter Benjamin’s १९३६ essay on “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (link takes you to a .pdf of the essay).

If you don’t have the time for it, this quote should be sufficient:

“Just as lithography virtually implied the illustrated newspaper, so did photography foreshadow the sound film. The technical reproduction of sound was tackled at the end of the last century. These convergent endeavors made predictable a situation which Paul Valery pointed up in this sentence: “Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our need in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign” (op. cit., p. 226).

Those images which ‘appear and disappear at a simple movement’ are the images of the Internet. We have reached far beyond the mere reproducibility and redistribution of images in the tangible sense. We literally can wave a symbol into existence with a mouse or keyword. We do not have to move to do so, especially with cell phone technology.

What are the implications of infinite reproducibility? When space is reduced to nothing, time becomes the penultimate measure of use-value, and use-value becomes time-value. This is why websites like Lifehacker and Getting Things Done are so valuable to productive people. In an era of infinite images, system that block out, sift through, and combine fragmented information together.

Defragmented machines work better than fragmented ones. The equivalence is conserved in human-computer relationships. The less fragmented the ideas, information transfers, and overall interactions, the more productive and valuable (time-value) the relationship can be. When space has collapsed into time, the amount of time one spends in positive, productive communication with a computer is the difference between happiness and depression, monetary benefit or poverty. This will only continue to be more true as time and space pull closer and closer together.


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