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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Technology & Art: Is photography art or is it a mechanical reproduction?

This week we take up a consideration of the aesthetic value of photography. While Walter Benjamin argues that art is aesthetically devalued when it is mechanically reproduced, as is the case in photography, Ted Cohen challenges this assumption by asserting that it takes a real artist to compose a great photography. 

  1. Resources
  2. Guide Questions
  3. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Existentialism:
Walter Benjamin:
Art and Photography:
Art and Technology:
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Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objective: to determine if photography has aesthetic and artistic merit. Can photography claim to be a field of artistic endeavor or must we capitulate to Benjamin's point of view and reject "mechanical" modes of artistic reproduction"?

Benjamin Guide Questions:

  1. How did lithography and photography change the nature of artistic reproduction?
  2. What is the "prerequisite to the concept of authenticity"?
  3. What is Benjamin's claim concerning the "quality of presence" in a mechanically reproduced work of art?
  4. What happens to a work of art that is mechanically reproduced?
  5. What does film do to cultural heritage?
  6. What is the modern attitude towards digital and mechanical forms of art according to Benjamin?
  7. Describe the connection between aura and ritual? What is the "ritual" function of art?
  8. How does the idea of a print contribute to an idea of mechanical art? What is the function of a print?
  9. If Benjamin's view is adopted and only the fine arts qualify as authentic, how can we appreciate and understand the commercial arts?

Cohen Guide Questions:

  1. Are photographs merely pictures of 'x'?
  2. What is the relation between a photograph and its subject?)
  3. What is the role of the photographer in bringing the subject into play in a particular photograph?
  4. Why do we have faith in photographs?
  5. Are cool photographic techniques more or less artistic than their mundane counterparts? If you argue that technique creates art, explain why.
  6. What is the relationship between the photograph and the world?
  7. Why does Cohen think that Benjamin misses the point in his discussion of photography? What does Benjamin miss?
  8. How does the photographer transform a mundane subject into art? Use Cohen's discussion to explain the process.
  9. How can photography free itself from the label "mechanical representation"?
  10. What is special about photography?
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Smartboard Notes

Smartboard Notes from Weeks 3 Lecture:

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smartboard notes

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