Saving Lives: Digital Biography and Life Writing

  • Paul Longley Arthur


In this first decade of the twenty-first century we are caught up in the midst of a technological shift of the kind that Walter Benjamin, in his 1936 essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, attributed to the increasing popularity of photography in the early twentieth century. The essence of that change was the unprecedented capacity to create infinitely reproducible multiple copies. For the first time the idea of the primacy of the singular work of art was seriously open to question.1 ‘The history of every art form,’ writes Benjamin, ‘shows critical epochs in which a certain art form aspires to effects which could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard, that is to say, a new art form’ (Benjamin, 1973, p. 239). Photography initiated a change that Benjamin recognised as being as profound in its impact on people’s lives as the introduction of the printing press. Each of these successive technological advances had the effect of putting within reach of the wider public products, information and knowledge that in the past could be enjoyed only by wealthy and elite groups and individuals, so much so that the concept of ‘art’ itself needed to be redefined to accommodate the many new forms that arose out of new technologies.2 Over the past three decades, the advances in digital technologies that have occurred have repeated that pattern of rapidly increasing accessibility, far beyond the bounds of art and into every sphere of experience, in a manner and on a scale that Benjamin could not have foreseen.3


Digital Form Digital Environment Digital Storytelling Social Bookmark Digital Textuality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Paul Longley Arthur 2009

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  • Paul Longley Arthur

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