Aura in the Age of Computational Production

Does a work of electronic literature that’s summoned on demand have "aura"?  What is the role of code, platform, and human performance in conjuring or coaxing aura from digital writing? How does this affect the cultural and market value of the work?This piece collects seven statements for a roundtable that interrogates whether creative computational work can conjure aura, and to what extent the authoring and distribution systems those works rely on foreclose upon or enable "aura."  Walter Benjamin’s seminal "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935) describes fascistic modes of production and mass deception that forecast  -- in very specific ways -- iOS.

  1. Leonardo Flores frames the discussion with “Scarcity, Spreadability, and Aura” which focuses on two PC works-- William Gibson's Agrippa and Nick Montfort's "Taroko Gorge" along with all its remixes-- both of which gain aura by virtue of their 'spreadability,' a concept put forth in Henry Jenkins' book Spreadable Media.
  2. In “A Non-Linear Timeline of Twenty Years Online” J.R. Carpenter frames her oeuvre within the contexts of print and digital reproduction, canon formation, performance, and dissemination through print and social media.
  3. Nick Montfort examines the obligatory underlying computational process of copying in “Auraless E-Lit” and its inherent incompatibility a Benjaminian notion of aura.
  4. In “How to Sell what Is Free?” David Jhave Johnston examines poetry and electronic poetry’s monetary worth and aura in the contexts of a free and open Web.
  5. Erik Loyer’s statement, “Aura as Groundwater,” explores a similar concept within the more restrictive, proprietary, market space of iOS and the Apple Store.
  6. Jason Edward Lewis’ “Aura vs. Apple, or the Rich Get Richer While the Bastards Go Unloved” offers a chilling account of the pricing limits placed upon artists within the Apple’s App Store, as he experienced with his limited edition poetic art app “Bastard.”
  7. Kathi Inman Berens “Steve’s Shroud: Aura & iOS” closes the frame by showing how Jason Edward Lewis’ touch poem “Smooth Second Bastard,” and Ian Bogost’s iOS game and museum installation “Simony” create and engage procedural rhetorics that disrupt the fascistic environment created by iOS.

Collectively, these statements depict the current landscape of options and paradigm shifts for generating cultural and monetary value in the current age of computational production.