The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production

Thomas B. Cavanaugh (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-060-8.ch136
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When Walter Benjamin wrote his famous essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, he shone a light on the cultural changes inherent in technology’s ability to infinitely reproduce and distribute art. One of the important consequences of this development was the democratization of art’s availability, allowing the general population to experience artwork that they would otherwise be unable to access. Now technology has advanced to a point where not only is art’s reproduction available to anyone who wants it, its very production is now accessible to almost everyone, even if the prospective artist is utterly devoid of training, expertise, or even talent. With software-based artistic assistance and low-threshold electronic distribution mechanisms, we have achieved the promise of Benjamin’s blurred distinction between artist and audience. As a result, the process by which art is produced has now been democratized, resulting in legitimate questions regarding quality, taste, and the legitimacy of authorship in a human-technological artistic collaboration.

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