Phrasing the Question

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

I am convinced more and more that one of the critical essays for understanding media transformation is Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” I am less interested in the precise contours of the argument in relation to art or facism as he makes the connections, rather I am enticed by his methodology. That is, rather than ask is photography art, Benjamin asks the more important question, what does having the photograph do to our concept of art? How does the mere existence of the photograph change our ability to conceive of art as such? What changes does the existence of the photograph bring about, from which there is no going back?

I think it is useful to take a Benajamin approach to studying the internet. So, in this case it isn’t as productive to ask what does the internet do to democracy, is it good or bad for democracy, but rather what does the internet do to our concept of democracy? How does the existence of the internet render untenable previous notions about democracy and governmentality?

Bad question: Is the internet good or bad for freedom?

Productive question: What does the existence of the internet do to our conecpt of freedom?