Artistic tools in the age of digital reproduction: Photoshop and the aura of its tools

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The digitization of artistic tools in programs such as Adobe Photoshop - which employ remediative metaphors to convey particular possibility spaces to their user - has brought not only an expansion of the artist’s toolkit, but also problems for organizations which still rely on the practices of older disciplines. There is, then, a problem of media illiteracy: a misunderstanding of the working of the program, and this problem is rooted in the claims the program user interface makes about its tools. In this thesis I use the Benjaminian aura, the aura of (artistic) creation, semiotics and etymology to assess what happens to the aura of artistic tools when these are (re)produced digitally in the software-world of Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop employs remediative interface metaphors in its graphical user interface. While these metaphors may have been intended as a coping mechanism to acquaint the user with the unfamiliar softwareworld, they, instead, have come to facilitate a vicious circle of media illiteracy. For the metaphors they present to their users are not accurate and therefore create a faulty model of the tool’s working. Through these remediative metaphors the artistic space of Adobe Photoshop is mythologized over consecutive software versions: it is imbued with the aura of creation. This aura of creation, embeds the Photoshop-tools in a customized, individual “here and now”: the personalized interface constellation with the custom brushes, settings and so forth. Yet it also provides a perceived historical context of artistic tradition. By doing so it facilitates the careful construction of a simulated aura around the Photoshop-tools: a parasitic aura that is more resilient than a Benjami! nian one and that can, indeed, survive reproduction.
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