Essay: The digital death of collecting - Deepstash

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Essay: The digital death of collecting

kylechayka.substack.com

Digital Era

In the digital era, everything seems to be a single click away, it’s easy to forget that we have long had physical relationships with the pieces of culture we consume. We store books on bookshelves, mount art on our living-room walls, and keep stacks of vinyl records. When we want to experience s...

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In 1931, the German cultural critic Walter Benjamin wrote an essay called “Unpacking My Library,” describing these relationships with cultural objects. In the essay, Benjamin narrates removing his book collection from dusty crates, untouched for years. The volumes are splayed loose on the floor, ...

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They sat proudly on his shelves as symbols, representing the knowledge that he still aspired to gain or the cities he had traveled, where he encountered a book in a previously unknown shop. Collecting books was his way of interacting with the world, of building a worldview. Benjamin’s library was...

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“Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects,” Benjamin wrote. “Not that they have come alive in him; he lives in them.” In other words, we often discover ourselves in what we keep around us. But the progressive relationship, the codependence or co-evolution of collec...

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We don’t often think about bookshelves on their own, separate from what they contain, but they are great devices. They display books or albums and you can choose from among the displayed options in a relatively neutral way. The collector is the only one who decides how to arrange her possessions,...

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They shift constantly and are far from neutral: If Spotify suddenly gives the category of podcasts a prominent new placement, for example, it’s because the company has decided that podcasts are going to make up more of its revenue in the future. The interfaces follow the company’s incentives, pus...

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My lostness comes from the sense that our cultural collections are not wholly our own anymore. In the era of algorithmic feeds, it’s as if the bookshelves have started changing shape on their own in real time, shuffling some material to the front and downplaying the rest like a sleight-of-hand ma...

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