Yet even with all its excesses of content, our era of algorithmic feeds might herald the actual death of the collector, because the algorithm itself is the collector, curator, and arbiter of culture.
My personal Instagram archive, a decade-long account of my adult life in images, still exists on the platform, but that album of memories feels defunct, relic of an earlier era of the software. When I look back at it, I don’t feel nostalgic; I feel lost.
For Benjamin, the very possession of these books formed his identity as a reader, writer, and human being — even if he hadn’t read all of them. 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.