In my experience, the most discussed aspect of this essay is the discussion of the aura, and what it means to speak about works of art losing their aura. This sounds like it would be a negative thing – as if the loss of aura somehow dilutes the worth of the original work. However, I would argue that Benjamin could just as easily be promoting the loss of aura as a positive turn.
Benjamin writes that a work’s uniqueness is inseparable from its use as an object of tradition, for instance as a cult object for worship. The object would have had a ritual use and it would have been dedicated to that purpose. Eventually, however, the uniqueness of a work of art came to be associated with the artist and its provenance. The work may still have some level of “cult” value (like the Mona Lisa, for example), but it is based within a different measure. Methods of reproduction, whether it is engraving, lithography, or photography, change the relationship of the viewer to the work of art. The viewer no longer has to be in front of the work in order to see it. Benjamin argues that the aura “withers” when a work is reproduced, however in the next sentence he seems to explain that the loss of an aura is not necessarily undesirable: “in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced.” Though this may disrupt the traditional use of the work, it will reactivate the work in another context. The ability of people to view a work of art through other means than being physically present exposes it to new lines of inquiry that otherwise may not have occurred.