The Death of the Author—Again

Peter Brantley in his article, “The New Ones: The Only Horizon is Before Us,” discusses a software developer who is interested in digital authorship as he “wants to play with versioning, reader collaboration, and all the other cool things you can do on the web,” such as “deal[ing] with iterative story-telling, and foster[ing] reader engagement.” This new, fluid, multi-voice authorship of the Web 2.0 challenges both the romantic ideal of the author-as-sole-creator (or genius), and concepts of the singular authorial voice and the author’s role in textual production. Divorced from the notion of the author in a place of importance as the sole provider of a unified text, Ana Sevilla-Pavón explains in “Examining Collective Authorship in Collaborative Writing Tasks through Digital Storytelling” that “the notion of author of contents created and shared through digital technologies has shifted and evolved towards a state of what in many cases could be considered as being nearly invisible.” She notes that before this type of collaboration, readers consumed information passively, but now we have “enabled individuals to become simultaneously users, receivers and producers of content and information,” which increases overall learning. The concern of not having “an author” per se is one of responsibility—should we trust the information if we don’t know whom the authors are? Do they feel less responsible for the content if their names aren’t attached to it, or they are relatively unidentifiable? Sevilla-Pavón’s assertion that “Very often, we do not know the ‘original’ author(s) of the content we are constantly accessing, reinterpreting and modifying” made me think of Wikipedia, which is in my mind one of the greatest successes of digital multi-authorship. I think of Wikipedia as a useful academic resource for both a broad overview of any particular concept as well as an avenue for finding relevant source information through user-generated citations. In my opinion, Wikipedia has only become more reliable with increased use, collaboration, and engagement. Also of concern for academic writing are citations: how would one cite a Wikipedia page? Interestingly, Wikipedia provides auto-generated citation for each of its pages. For example, when searching for “Puppy,” the citation is as follows:

Wikipedia contributors. “Puppy.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Jan. 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Normally the author name begins the citation, but here, even credit is given among all contributors (all 1,476 as of today), thereby attempting to acknowledge its multi-authored nature.


Works Cited:

Brantley, Peter. 2013. “The New Ones: The Only Horizon is Before Us.” PWxyz (Archived).

Sevilla-Pavón, Ana. “Examining Collective Authorship in Collaborative Writing Tasks through Digital Storytelling.” European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 6 Dec. 2015.

One Reply to “The Death of the Author—Again”

  1. This response is a commentary on multi-authorship, but it is a little removed from the Brantley piece. This is not a bad thing in and of itself—if this is what the piece made you think of. It is, however, a good response to Sevilla-Pavón’s piece. It reads well until near the end, when the questions raised about citation of multi-authored feel like a distraction from the issues of how we conceive authorship. Finally, the example from Wikipedia (a fairly typical and old-fashioned citation) offers little to the discussion.

Leave a Reply