Death of Author 2.0

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Not sure who the author of this article is.

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Text: The Death of the Author 2.0

The (second) removal of the author is merely a historical fact.

The figure of romantic genius was born in XVIII century, since this time, many speculations have been doing around the myth of author and its aura. Then it has been the culmination of capitalist ideology, which has attached the greatest importance to the "person" of the author. The image of ideas to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centered on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions. In the first decade of XXI century, the myth of the author die.

The user-producer is a concept that speak to the digital experience and the freedoms that this digital culture allow for ordinary people to become artist and producer. This model fundamentally challenges the traditional assumptions of author, it moves away from the idea of the romantic notion of authorship, which saw authorship and cultural production as an isolated activity of a genius sitting and creating something out of nothing. In the act of copy, many usually in the digital world, as we lose the concept of the original, we forget the author ever more. So the only effective things that we remember and we feel, are narrative codes and moral signs.

Some factors as the democratic diffusion of tools for create and for spread content, the explosion of economy of imagination, the sharing of intellectual products, the figure of prosumer and the social network of web 2.0, these have desacralized the figure of author, these have stripped its aura, it has been plunged in the Pangea of Knowledge, which is the only one creator of human culture, transversely in time and in place.

Authorship becomes indistinguishable from the multiplicity of authors, this profusion transforms the culture and their creators in a unique body. It's the collective intelligence, it's the return of the rules of oral and folk culture. Collaborative creativity, influences, remix, sampling, reshaping and mesh of diffuse publications of intellectual products, from ideas and concepts, to arts and researches; these are the causes that have diminished the character of originally, individually and autonomy composition. Culture consists of multiple writing, indeed, everything is to be distinguished. This multiplicity is collected, united and this place is not the author, as we have hitherto said it was.

So the author back to its old work of compiler, and its name isn't important anymore. It's the inevitable way: ever more become difficult to be sure of attribution, so it might not refer to a real individual. Again as in the past, anonymous narrative contributions are the roots of our culture and our perception of reality. Contemporary examples of this social spaces are YouTube, MySpace, Digg, Delicious and Blog Sphere in general. In the end, the fifteen minutes of fame for each of us, go down to zero seconds, but each little piece of art becomes infinitely more useful for human being. It's the forest that take shape of tree, not vice versa.

The quote represents the culture itself as the principle of human becoming, the improving of human thinking, from quoting to quoting, from the evolution of ideas to others and their negation. The culture is a tissue of citations, resulting from thousand sources of culture and signs. The history of human thinking is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centers of culture.

AS FOLK :: AS ORAL CULTURE :: AS networked culture.

Authorship, originality is of no or little relevance in virtually all traditional forms of popular culture all over the world. Most folk songs and folk tales, are collective anonymous creations in public domain. Variation, modifications and translations are traditional encouraged as part of their tradition. Much author founded much of its wealth on folk tales, by taking them out of public domain and turning them into proprietary and exploiting that.

The same is true for many works considered part of the high cultural canon, crafted by unidentified, often collective authors: Homer's epics for example, or the tales of 1001 nights, which were spread by storytellers and of which no authoritative, 'original' written version ever existed. In the middle age, and renaissance, original authorship was even rather more disregarded than encouraged. Literally works typically render themselves canonical by inventing new stories, but rewriting existing one, so many adaptions of the same. Originality of the work to recognize the value that various user contribute through their modifications and adaptions to an existing work, thus placing higher premium on collaborative production than on isolated production. In fact the history of cultural production has, to a large extent been the history of collaborative production, and this is true in all kinds of human achievements. Many work considered part of the high-cultural canon, crafted by unidentified, often collective authors. Shakespeare was brilliant play writing we should also remember the fact that he drew rather liberally from various source, form history, mythology and the work of his peers, as inspiration and as source of modify.

Language which speaks, not the author, linguistically, the author is never anything more than the man who writes, just as is no more than the man who says language knows a "subject", not a "person", end this subject, void outside of the very utterance which defines it.

Work of art tries to set itself free from its artist, challenging preconceived ideas or opinions, sometimes being able to exceed the importance of its creator.


  1. Beam me up, Scotty, David McKie, The Guardian, 2005, at,3604,1560194,00.html
  2. OS Tactics for Collective Art Practice, Saul Albert, 1999
  3. Death of the Author, Roland Barthes, 1967
  4. Plagiarism, Madrid, La Casa Encendida, ArteLecu, 2005
  5. Guide to open content licenses, Lawrence Liang, Piet Zwart Istitute, 2005
  6. Du bon usage de la piraterie, Florent Latrive, Exils, 2004
  7. TheWork of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin, 1935
  8. The reader, M. Eraso, A. Ludovico, S. Krekovic, 2006
  9. Falso è Vero, Various, AAA, 1998
  10. International Artistic Without-Sign Movement, Manifesto, 2005

Commentary by Michel Bauwens

My own personal comment is that I do not believe that contemporary collective authorship diminishes the importance or identity of an individual author. Unlike pre-modern anonymity, the contemporary process transcends and includes both the individual and the collective, and I don't think there is much evidence that people produce anonymously, even in collective environments.

Because our identity is constructed through our collective engagements, and because these are multiple, we need portable reputations and identities that are dependent on our authorshop being acknowledged.