Recovering the Aura in the Age of Digital Reproduction

Much has been lamented about the loss of the Aura of Art in the Age of Digital Media – mostly because the transition from old to new media has been poorly understood or poorly executed. And then comes an amazing collection of landscape photographs by someone who has never been there, has not even taken the photos.

Buchdeckel der klassischen Ausgaben (ab 1893) der Bände Winnetou I bis III

Creating stories a bout foreign places is neither rare nor new. Anyone growing up with German generations with stories of the Old West he had never visited, mostly because he spent a bigger part of his life in jail.

streetview.portraitsGoogle Street View Scene – building in Arequipa, Peru. .

The New Yorker brings the story of Jacqui Kenny, “a New Zealander living in London, began exploring the world on Google Street View” as she suffers from an anxiety that makes it impossible for her to travel.  On her Instagram Account “Agoraphobic Traveller” she collects images from the reality created by Google Street View. You may perceive this as “just grabbing some images from a computer screen” but then Jacqui vas there, visited as much as you would walking around neighborhoods as a tourist, neighborhoods you don’t belong to, you are not part of, you will never really understand. If you’re old enough to recall those dreadful slide show evenings in a friend’s dark living room, suffering from ultimate touristic boredom unless you suddenly find a friendly hand from a perfect stranger holding your hand under the table, which may make the evening a success, but I digress…

As we chase after the Google Car that drives across space and time, relentlessly recording the word as we see it, creating a map that is as big as the territory. Alfred Korzybski pointed out “A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.” [Science and Sanity (1933, p. 58) quoted after Wikipedia] – Google Streetview is a map one level removed, on par with 15th c. Maps that in many instances are more beautiful than useful.  Streetview – and Amazon A9 developed Street View before Google [full disclosure: I Was there when it happened]  – creates a “hyperreal” as Baudrilliard describes it in Simulations. “Henceforth it is the map that precedes the territory — PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA — it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map.” (ibid. p. 2). 

As much as we create a piece of art depicting what we perceive as reality, we have the opportunity to create a piece of art from a digital perspective of reality that is no more or less real and the aura is created through the work of art in the age of digital reproduction.


[UPDATE] – just found an interesting piece on the relationship between map and territory:


The Relationship between a Subway map and the actual lines through the city – ponder a moment which representation you consider the “right one”.

More here.

Canaletto: The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice

Giovanni Antonio Canal (18 October 1697 – 19 April 1768), better known as Canaletto: The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice










Too practical to be useful – the Phonecamera

Engineering marvels – especially consumer products – have a long history of being so practical and convenient that they are completely useless. Add-on lenses to smart phones are fast approaching this category. It is common knowledge that the best camera is the one you have with you, and unless you go on a specific photo shoot, this will be more many the smart phone in their pocket. Ready to be used anytime with virtually no set-up the smartphone creates reasonably good memories, serves as a creative tool when you study a bit its capabilities and possibly add some apps. There are a wide range of more or less convenient little add-on lenses
with this one slightly more practical than others that require you to glue on parts onto your phone. These lenses are optical add-ons and while most of them suffer from incompatibility with an even more important piece of creative expression – the phone cover – they make use of the imaging technology at hand. Taking the concept of photography with your smartphone a stap further leads to the recent announcement by Sony to provide a fully contained high-end point-and shoot camera that uses your smart phone as a viewfinder and control panel.

Sony QX clip-on camera

Sony QX clip-on camera – Photo by

Sony announced two fully connected cameras containing a Zeiss lens, a large sensor, a battery and electronics. It clips onto your smartphone, making it useless as a phone, a texting device and as a reading unit and hard to handle as a camera. It sounds like a great idea to finally have an optical 10x zoom with the QX10 and the large sensor QX100. Here’s a professional review.


The photo enthusiast blog DPR Connect asks “Has Sony redefined mobile photography?” and there are definitely new options to use a highly connected camera. Maybe it’s a new category. It’s no longer the best camera to have with you – especially when you actually want to use the phone. Every time the $400+ camera piece hits the cobble stones of the street you’re walking when answering a quick call makes you reconsider. When carrying a big clunker in your pocket, you may a

s well carry a complete camera – or not.

Media and communication devices are getting old very fast, which makes us smile when we see feeble attempts to build the ultimate contraption.


Rotobooth users dial their mobile numbers the old-school way with long winds around the rotary phone located below the camera lens. Creators of Rotobooth hacked the phone with an Arduino microcontroller, so that once a photo is taken, it’s sent to Flickr, and the user then receives a text message link to that photo on whatever number was dialed on the rotary phone.

UPDATE: More on Rotobooth (dead link)

More on the sharing the world with everyone except yourself in the next blog entry.


UPDATE: 10 minutes after I posted the blog entry, this came up on FB: attach your iPhone to a classic Hasselblad C500





So-called Friends

So-called Friends – or “Join Facebook, learn about exotic, distant lands; befriend exciting, unusual people and SPAM them with Malware. *

When M. was in pre-school everybody in Blue Room was a “friend”. She went to the park with her little friends and played with them. Some of them actually became friends. In public middle school she has a few friends from elementary school – other students tell her she has no place in this school because of her skin color – she’s white (well actually pink).

When I was 12, the hairdresser in my school in Vienna – yes the Theresianum had an in-house hairdresser – told me that you have one real friend in life – maybe two. This seems to have made a big impression on me as I vividly remember the setting. That was long before online friends were invented and before everybody was openly more or less gay – and in addition due to the fact that German actually is a language with a grammar – it was relatively easy to distinguish if you like someone or “really like” someone as my now 12-year-old would put it – referring to romantic entanglements (which just like “graphic” or “adult” is just another helpless circumscription to find out do you have sex with each other?)

Revenons à nos moutons: Today I received two friend requests on Facebook from two very different people – a young good-looking lady and a dapper gentleman connected me with a friend request. They had two things in common: I had never heard of them, they each had 32 “friends” none of which were mutual and their profile was completely empty. Why would they ask “do you want to be my friend?” – something that is awkward after the age of seven anyway. LinkedIn is somewhat cleaner as it asks to
“connect”, yet also has its fair share of undesirable connections from aggressive marketers to outright scam artists. In a society where more and bigger is better does it get you bragging rights to have 15,000+ LinkedIn connections?

Trojan horse after the Vergilius Vaticanus.

Or is this a rampant misuse of a social network turned MLM platform? There are discussions about Superconnectors and LIONs – “open networkers” ready to connect to anyone. It’s a business decision, if you want a lifestyle, definitely of interest to those who sell their services via social networks – yet ultimately doomed to burn out, thus creating a social network entropy. To add to this, you can buy yourself friends on Facebook. One Website offers to buy “real Facebook friends” for under $130 for 3000 friends and you get 1500 likes for free [sorry no link, the site seems somewhat flaky – yet it mentions that “Facebook friends sale made a business worth 200 dollars million [sic!] a year.” This seems a much better deal than online dating where you don’t get 3000 friends guaranteed. The question remains – do these
friends come with any benefits and if yes with which ones? As Vigil wrote in the Aeneid (II, 49) “…et dona ferentes”.


Is blogging outdated?

Admittedly, I seldom blog. Maybe twice a year – whenever I feel like – as a result I don’t have a lot of followers. It’s not really a publication outlet for me. Recently I found that more and more of the links to other materials I use online go dead. Material disappears, goes dead… <– This blog entry started as a test to fix the crashed database behind the WP blog. Page cashing prolonged the outing – looks like it’s fixed –>  Now that the blog seems fixed on a technical level, the root question remains: “Does anybody still read blogs?” and “Are blogs obsolete?” Despite the shortness of the blog entry it already receives a comment. [to be continued]



Nothingness: Energy from Within (revisited)

In 2013 I gave a TEDx talk in Austria with the title “Nothingness: Energy from Within”. powerplugs
The topic for the conference was “Powering Up” with many great talks covering every aspect of energy production, management, ecological alternatives, solarpower plants, and the future city. As very child knows, energy comes out of the plug in the wall which is why parents discourage toddler stop put random metal pieces into those interesting little holes. Alternatively energy comes from power bars.

My talk closed the event with a different perspective about the energy potential of form and emptiness. Ways we create power from within in charging and balancing body and mind.

When I became interested and then certified in Integral Coaching®  these potentials to support clients in their personal development are of special interest to me as they allow clients to develop long-term benefits and life-changing results.

The idea continues to develop and gain power.

Nothingness:Energy from Within

.                    Form does not differ from emptiness,
.                    Emptiness does does not differ from form.
.                    Form itself is emptiness, emptiness itself form.
.                    — Heart of the Perfect Wisdom Sutra

Power and Energy are always directly related to motion, force and ultimately speed. To move in space and time we need energy in a wide range of forms – internal emotional as well as external energy to sustain our lives.

For the longest time we just used the energy sources we could get our hands on: wood, coal, wale blubber, all sorts of fossil and nuclear energy, wind, sun, cow dung, to name a few. While responsible use of resources, and awareness of the impact on our environment and us is always very important and has become a critical argument in selecting and using different energy sources.

When discussing the use of energy, efficiency, reduction, new energy forms, we consistently look at the issues in an isolated environment; yet the energy from outside and the energy we have inside us are directly connected. And furthermore, energy and energy usage is always also about communication, be it smart grids, powering a telephone line, socially, sitting around a fire or internally the way we feel at a very moment – spiritual, mental, emotional as well as physical energy. Discussing “alternative energy forms” usually gets stuck because it does not take into account the whole picture.

Understanding the energetic potential between form and emptiness, between what we need and don’t need we will get to surprising insights that go beyond the question of sun versus wind.





A personal side note – At the age of four, my personal preference was a telephone plug clearly designed to be used as a toy. Official denomination “Telefon-Walzenstecker Anschlussdosenstöpsel ZB 27“, clearly an empowering highlight of my early years with an added benefit that it was not life threatening in its use.