Barthes was a rock star of the writing world when he died suddenly in 1980 and, as with all rock stars, his death only led to a new lease of life. “Lately”, one commentator observed in 2012, “the posthumous corpus of Roland Barthes has been growing at a rate that rivals Tupac Shakur’s.
“The immediate creative consequence of this sea change is that we are building more technical competence into our tools. It is getting harder to take a really terrible digital photograph, and in correlation the average quality of photographs is rising. From automated essay critiques to algorithms that advise people on fashion errors and coordinating outfits, computation is changing aesthetics. When every art has its Auto-Tune, how will we distinguish great beauty from an increasingly perfect average?”