HERE’S THE BAIT AND SWITCH: Each new technology that further isolates individuals first promises to connect them. It was film’s potential to organize collective perception that so excited Walter Benjamin: “The ancient truth expressed by Heraclitus, that those who are awake have a world in common while each sleeper has a world of his own, has been invalidated by film,” he wrote, “and less by depicting the dream world itself than by creating figures of collective dream, such as the globe-encircling Mickey Mouse.” Alone together in the darkened theater, the proletariat would commune with new totems.
Had Benjamin lived long enough to observe the rise of television, he might have switched out Mickey for Felix the Cat, whose image was the first ever broadcast electronically, at the NBC studios in 1928. Mark Leckey has long been fascinated with this origin story, perhaps because it so
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