Material Culture

Copy copy copy

How can we understand the connection between the material and digital?

Our life has become living with digital. We never left our phone, and keep staying online for almost 24 hours. For example, even if I am offline, when someone wechat me and I’ll immediately become online when I notice. In another words, we can’t live without digital. We never imagine that digital has changed us gradually in every aspect of our life, and we still don’t consider too much about its authenticity. Now it could be the dualistic thinking between mind(immaterial) and body(material). (Descartes 1596-15650)

Even the digital space are not materially real, but the virtual also has a certain form of power to prove that it can has a material consequences. (Doom 2011) So actually it is considered to be real now. Different from what Benjamin(1992) has claimed that only the original object could have ‘aura’ which means the reproduction produced in our modern times are no longer the same. While in digital age, ‘through our different perception of the relationship between online and offline objects, the ontology of the objects have changed.'(Bennet 2010) It disseminated in to separate level, but each of them are equal. Because the subject-object relation has also been privatization into individuals, such as the guests in museum create their own digital stories, the private meanings by their own devices.

The reproduction matters now, and it is also meaningful for every owner. It seems like we are more close to individualism because digital give us more possibilities to build our own world and take in to account mainly as well. It relates to the connotation of postmodernism about self-expression and stylistic self-consciousness. Just as our homework for digital remix our object, the new picture we make is a different object from the original photo, something personally with thoughts have been added in. This kind of recreation digital materials are the distributed agency from the real object, but are showing more subjectivity of the owner, which could be called “style”. ‘The aestheticization of reality foregrounds the importance of style, which is also encouraged by the modernist market dynamic with it’s constant search for new fashion, new style, new sensations and experiences.’ (Featherstone 1991)


original picture



‘Virtual images have a materiality and a reality but of a different kind, a second order materiality, liminally immaterial. The terms ‘original’  and ‘copy’ will not apply here, because the virtual of the images does not imply direct mimesis, but a transfer … from one plane of meaning and appearance to another.'(Friedberg 2006)

For my works above, I tried to make it into anything I could achieve, for any purpose. The black one on the left, is the one I want to make it as the black mine. So when people directly see it, no one could know it was an amethyst, if I did it perfectly. It is one of the characteristics of the digital power holds, is to change the old original into another object, possibly.’Opportunities may be lost to understand what happens when objects take on different forms. ‘(Hogsden and Poulter 2012) The one in the middle that I put it on a poster style cover to show that it also could be used into the commercial market, being wrap in any possible connotations of using. While the last one on the right hand is my random mixing, looks like a breaking jelly, a way to show off ‘my art’ taste.

In my perspective, the aura within all photos are different from the original ‘real’ objects, thus we could put the word ‘Aura’ into two aspects. One is the same as Benjamin, the other is only belongs to the reproduction of photography, because it also make sense, in its own way and background. Then within the photography, the aura is different from each picture, the remixed ones are holding totally different meanings as the makers subjectivity and activity has intended to influence a lot. Just like Plato’s theory about ‘form’, that every object has it’s own form, but will presents in variety looking.




Bennett, J. (2010) Vibrant Matter:  A Political Ecology of Things, Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

Friedberg, A. (2006) The virtual window. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Featherstone, M. (1991) Consumer culture and postmodernism. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Hogsden, C and Poulter, E (2012) ‘The Real Other? Museum objects in digital contact networks’ The Journal of Material Culture, 17(3), 265-286.

Van Doorn, N. (2011) Digital spaces, material traces: How matter comes to matter in online performances of gender, sexuality and embodiment. Media, Culture & Society33(4), pp.531-547.


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