¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [2.1] If you are one of the lucky few who feels no anxieties about writing, I envy you. And, on some level, disbelieve you: anxieties about writing are usually unspoken and yet nearly universal among academics, right up there with “one day they’ll figure out I’m a fraud” syndrome. And even if you honestly feel you have no worries about your writing life, consider this: when was the last time you had to write a document in committee? If there were no jaw-clenching moments in that process, or if you’ve never become irate about the way your writing has been edited, then I really envy you.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 [2.2] If anything, questioning those frameworks seems to have added to our anxieties about our own writing; as Ede and Lunsford point out that, “however we theorize the subject and author, problems of writing and of scholarly (and pedagogical) practice decidedly remain. Amid such intense questioning, a kind of paralysis seems possible” (355) — indeed, likely. Little wonder, then, that we prefer to leave such notions in theory: “We scholars in English studies, it appears, are often more comfortable theorizing about subjectivity, agency, and authorship than we are attempting to enact alternatives to conventional assumptions and practices” (356).
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 [2.3] It should be noted that Lessig goes on to argue that, as these codes are programmable, and thus plastic, they can be reprogrammed to better serve our needs: “We should expect — and demand — that [technology] can be made to reflect any set of values that we think important” (Lessig, Code 32). For the time being, I want to ignore this quite obviously correct point, and instead think about what the academy can learn from network technologies, rather than vice versa. In the next chapter, I’ll turn my attention to network design and new scholarly publishing structures.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 [2.4] See Heim, Electric Language: “the practice of writing on a computer is becoming the standard operation for information workers; word processing is no longer restricted to the narrow domain of office automation. It would seem that not only the speed of intellectual work is being affected, but the quality of the work itself ” (1); Bolter, Writing Space: “Change is the rule in the computer, stability the exception, and it is the rule of change that makes the word processor so useful” (5); Poster, The Mode of Information: “Compared to the pen, the typewriter, or the printing press, the computer dematerializes the written trace…. Writers who begin to work with computers report their astonishment at how much easier many aspects of the process of writing have become or that writing is now very much like speaking” (111).
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 [2.8] Hesse notes that this mode of textual circulation “looks a lot like a mechanical version of the Internet” (24); it certainly bears resemblances to the mode of Internet communication that utopian thinkers like John Perry Barlow applaud, and that more pessimistic respondents such as Andrew Keen and Jaron Lanier deplore, if not to the Internet as it actually functions.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 [2.9] All that said: what the “words” have done with their words turns out to have been far more actively participatory than Jackson’s original project description suggested. “Words” were required to submit photographs of the tattoos to confirm their participation, and were invited to add “footnotes” to the project’s website, annotating their words; many of these participants have constructed their own narratives around those words, making at least this small part of Jackson’s narrative — and, not incidentally, her website — their own. See “Skin Footnotes.”
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 [2.10] So argued Howard Owens on his blog: “Blogs are arguably the first web-native publishing model, so it only makes sense that blogs would provide a template for how to publish online” (Owens), as did Michele Tepper well before that, in the September 2003 issue of netWorker, describing blogs as “perhaps the first native publishing format for the Web” (20). This point always seems to be made with “arguably” inserted, as I have done, which suggests that the idea has managed to enter the conventional wisdom without anyone ever having done an empirical study to back it up. Interestingly, I posed the question of support for such a statement on my own blog, and provoked in return a compelling discussion about what the true value of blogging’s “firstness” would be and about the erasure of Usenet from histories of the digital in the wake of the web. See Fitzpatrick, “Again with the Blegging” and “Blogging.”
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 [2.12] See “About Us,” Technorati. Blogger Matthew Baldwin in a recent interview claimed that “blogs are so ubiquitous these days that announcing you write one is like announcing you have a liver” (Stallings). They are perhaps not quite that ubiquitous, but they’re close.
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 [2.15] Not at all coincidentally, all three of us also blogged the panel: see Fitzpatrick, “Scholarly Collaboration”; Burke, “Liveblogging NITLE”; Blankenship, “Scholarly Collaboration.”
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 [2.16] Dozens of other academic bloggers have written about the relationship between the public mode of blogging and the more traditionally private, formal mode of producing scholarship. See, as only one example, John Holbo’s comment, made in the course of discussing a draft of a paper about the relationship between blogs and scholarly publishing, which he was preparing for the 2006 MLA, in which he indicates the usefulness, for him, of finding “SOME draft, penultimate, suitably developed — that needed a good knocking about. And the best place to get that these days, for me, is on the web. Post a draft. Get responses. Make improvements. The fact that then there is generally some artifactual record of the knocking-about is a plus, not a minus,” and goes on to argue that “One thing that electronic publication could conceivably end is the FINALITY of the book. This is a delicate point, because you have to preserve an inviolable archival record of what was written. But it ought to be possible to create version 2.0 of your book, in response to criticism, if version 2.0 would really be a lot, a lot better” (Holbo).
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 [2.17] These assumptions about singular authorship have of course given rise not only to the devaluation of coauthored texts, to which I now turn my attention, but also to concerns about plagiarism and appropriation, and to the scholarly citation practices intended to mitigate them. I’ll turn to those issues in the next section.
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 [2.18] See Joseph Harris: “almost all the routine forms of marking an academic career — CVs, annual faculty activity reports, tenure and promotion reviews — militate against [collaboration] by singling out for merit only those moments of individual ‘productivity,’ the next article or grant or graduate course” (quoted in Ede and Lunsford 356).
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 [2.19] See, for instance, Fox and Faver: “the separation of tasks and the joining of specializations may enable collaborators to increase their efficiency” (349). See also Austin and Baldwin, Gelman and Gibelman, Neubauer and Brewer, and Hart.
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 [2.20] It should be noted, of course, that all of these scholars point as well to the costs involved in collaboration, which can include slower production (through delays incurred in waiting for collaborators’ responses), higher research expenses (incurred in travel and communication), and emotional requirements (incurred in the need to maintain good working relationships in circumstances that can be trying). New digital technologies can potentially, at least, reduce the financial costs of collaboration.
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 [2.21] The irony, of course, is that while electronic publishing creates anxieties about our ideas being appropriated, it in fact presents a kind of protection against such thefts; when I publish a blog post containing part of an argument I’m working on, that blog post is time-stamped, thus creating material evidence that I wrote those words then. If anything, that evidence should powerfully mitigate against our ideas being stolen.
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 [2.23] EMI, holder of copyright on The Beatles, ordered the album to be withdrawn from retail distribution, an order that in fact may have created the notoriety that spurred its widespread success on the internet.
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 [2.24] See Lessig, Remix, and Jenkins, Convergence Culture, on the historical development, cultural significance, and legal implications of remix/mashup culture.
¶ 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 [2.25] See, for instance, Lessig, The Future of Ideas; Vaidhyanathan, Copyrights and Copywrongs and The Anarchist in the Library; Willinsky, The Access Principle; Saint-Amour, The Copywrights.
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 [2.26] Ede and Lunsford note that “the old cloak of the originary author-genius has been spruced up and donned first by the law and then by corporate entrepreneurial interests” (359), suggesting that, far from disrupting the figure of the author, the corporation has instead appropriated it, becoming perversely more individual than the individual.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 [2.27] Fortune included In Rainbows as number 59 in its list of the “101 Dumbest Moments in Business,” saying, “Can’t wait for the followup album, In Debt” (“101 Dumbest Moments”).
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 [2.29] This claim of course focuses on the publication of scholarship, leaving out the comparatively lucrative textbook market; textbooks and their relationship to digital publishing are another can of worms entirely.
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 [2.32] Technically, of course, this isn’t true; striking the keys triggers a switch that completes a circuit that sends an electrical signal to a microcontroller, which then translates that signal into a code sent to the computer processor, which finally uses that code to produce certain effects (instructions to a hard drive causing voltage changes that result in magnetic inscription on its surface; instructions to a display device causing pixels to appear on a screen). But the effect for most computer users is what I describe above.