It's the new black.

In the age of mechanical reproduction

I was convinced that my first post for this  project would have to be staggeringly insightful. I’m still hoping that this will turn into something coherent as I write; for the time being, I’m just going to offer an old-fashioned rant.

For a few months now, I have been contemplating the purchase of a new computer. As we speak, my poor laptop is at a 45 degree angle; any further extended and the screen fizzles out and I lose all WiFi connection (unsure if the last bit has more to do with condition of machine or service, but whatever.) Unfortunately, five years as a Mac user has rendered my PC skills obsolete, thus I’ll be sticking with the devil I know (albeit at a Faust-ian expense.) Upon learning that a new Macbook Pro would enter Apple’s lexicon this summer, I prolonged the lifespan of this decidedly temperamental old thing, and waited to see what they came up with. 

There’s no DVD drive.

I know, I know. If you want to watch movies, just get a television. Or something external. Or perhaps switch over to digital altogether. To quote Lucille Bluth, “I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.”

I’d like my laptop to be a “one-stop shop,” but, more importantly, I like physical objects that I can hold and explore. Take the DVD. I like the packaging, and all the random oojahs that pop out when you open it for the first time. I like the supplemental material and commentary and (in the case of Wes Anderson) odd drawings that come with the disk. I like the disk itself, how my family yells at each other when it skips or freezes, only to break down into peals of laughter as we attempt to match up the suspect fingerprint to one of those lounging on the couch. Inevitably, they break down, and you either have to buck up and buy a new one, or do what I do: Windex.

It’s only now that I’m starting to understand the nuances of Walter Benjamin, and what he means when he talks about losing thing in the process of reproduction. You’re getting further and further from the source material, and somehow, against our taught, ingrained principles, this seems to be the correct course. Film is one of those media that is valuable when newest. You really don’t hear people saying, “I’ve got a first edition VHS of The Little Mermaid I’d like to show you.” No, and part of that is a caveat that comes with technology; like my computer, it’ll get old. It’ll get outdated. It’ll wear out. And then you start all over again with version 10.0 or whatever we’re at now.

Which brings me to another physical item: the published document, known colloquially as the book. Not the e-book, not even the PDF, but the book. The book satisfies my base need for something to hold on to, but it also confirms my “value the elderly” theory; in this case, you never hear, “I’ve got a 2005 Keira Knightley-cover version of Pride and Prejudice that will go for pretty high at Christie’s.” As you creep closer to the source material, something, some mixture of the production and essence seems to make the final product more valuable, physically and emotionally. Plus, a book will never go out of date or need to be “upgraded” : just don’t spill coffee on it, and we’ll all be fine.

I’m not really sure what the moral is here. It can’t be “technology is bad”, because how else would I have such a fascinating platform, or rather an online diary of sorts. And it can’t be “old things are great, new things stink” because some old things really stink. Like laundry. Or milk.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: don’t take away the possibility of the tangible, of the things you can hold and experience face to face. If you do, then I’ll never get to see the Criterion Collection with Retina Display.

Now excuse me while I go buy a typewriter. Or better yet, a bunch of pencils. – Hannah

One comment on “In the age of mechanical reproduction

  1. Pingback: Highly Recommended: La Règle du jeu : gaudy.

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2012 by .

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