The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

On authorship

In an artful thirteen-point meditation on what Medium is, or might be, or might become, Josh Benton drops this little bomb:


Degrading authorship is something the web already does spectacularly well. Work gets chopped and sliced and repurposed. That last animated GIF you saw — do you know who made it? Probably not. That infonugget you saw on Gawker or The Atlantic — did it start there? Probably not. Sites like Buzzfeed are built largely on reshuffling the Internet, rearranging work into streams and slideshows.

It’s been a while since auteur theory made sense as an explanation of the web. And you know what? We’re better for it. In a world of functionally infinite content, relying on authorship doesn’t scale. We need people to mash things up, to point things out, to sample, to remix.

His throwaway line there—And you know what? We’re the better for it—made my hackles rise (what are hackles? Nobody knows) and made me want to write about this myself—which I will—but not yet. For now, read Benton’s thirteen points, which are super smart and subtle and well put-together.


How interesting. He’s almost likening bloggers, online editors and content creators to DJs.

I look forward to reading your thoughts! But — as an anticipatory argument to hopefully help set your hackles at ease — remember that degraded authorship doesn’t have to mean degraded authors, or degraded creativity. Think of the medieval masters (often known only by the name of the region in which they lived, which actually only puts them a half step away from Da Vinci), whose work has survived even if their given name has not.

Think of that first article talking about EPIC 2014 in The Atlantic, which named neither you nor Matt. Don’t let ego get too caught up in the modern business model of the author as brand (the branded author?), especially since it’s always been my impression that avoiding that has been one of your strengths.

Remember that if we’re lucky, the work survives and escapes us. This is, in fact, the best case scenario. 🙂

I had a similar thought, but I went more early-twentieth-century than Gavin. Think Time or Life or Fortune, or any other Henry Luce-run magazine. These periodicals employed some truly astounding talent — Archibald MacLeish!—but without by-lines.

Heck, think of the Economist.

Of course, I still like authorship, but I do see that the lack of authorship is not necessarily a bad thing.

I always felt like authorship also carried with it accountability and the ability follow up and connect. That’s precisely why the Economist’s policy always bugged me.

Betty Ann says…

Riffing on our recent conversation … maybe authors aren’t sacred.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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