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On Some Motifs in Baudelaire

Seminar Questions 1. Modernism- Benjamin, Walter “On some Motifs in Baudelaire” Question 1: In “On some Motifs in Baudelaire” Walter Benjamin argues that extended exposure to stimuli, or shocks, in the environment alters the human experience of our world and creates a conditioned reaction within the crowd. How does this overstimulation shape our current society and was Benjamin correct in warning against it? Walter Benjamin implied that our minds are not equipped with the facilities to handle these shocks.

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These develop into environmental stressors and thus our decision-making skills are weakened and we just follow the person in front of us. While over stimulation is an epidemic in current times I do not believe it has created mindless hordes of people. The biggest effect of over stimulation is an individual’s continuous partial attention. Not being able to focus on one thing means focusing on multiple tasks and then not doing any of them completely. Our minds rapidly switch between a variety of separate channels.

Initially, this may lead to fatigue. However, the mind can build off of this and become stronger. This is why current culture deems louder, brighter, faster, and shocking media as “better”. For society to notice anything it needs to be an attention grabber, and when society is constantly focusing on a variety of media you are bombarded with I do not agree that these shocks create a conditioned reaction within the crowd but I do believe they create them within the individual.

An individual’s need to process multiple channels of information at once allows information that isn’t sold as the biggest, brightest, and best to fall through the cracks. ? Question 2: Walter Benjamin’s description of a flaneur as a “detached observer” describes a spectator who seems to maintain their individuality from the crowd. One that can break free from rationalized understandings while being opened up to new perspectives and experiences. Do modern cities and their architecture embrace the idea of the flaneur? Modern architecture embraces the alienating nature of modernity.

It creates cities that encourage crowds and a fast-paced way of life. Commercial typologies like malls, subway systems, and high-rise office buildings create a certain environment that do not encourage individual reactions. When something is designed to garner a similar reaction from different types of people it lessens the chance for chaos and also allows a behavioural expectation to be set within a certain environment. When people are expected to react in similar ways it allows the people in charge to be better prepared for distinctive instances.

Police can work better, government can create more effect universal policies and transportation can run smoother. Therefore, it benefits the rulers of a city to for modern architecture to follow the same instances. Perhaps the flaneur is the architect, but the vision and idiosyncrasies that the architect tries to instill within each project get syphoned out through different real world factors. Factors that include: budgets, client’s tastes, feasibility, and materiality. These factors chip away at truly city changing architecture and create an environment where the same projects continue to get churned out.