OpenFiction [Blog]

Ownership and authorship in the digital age

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on February 26, 2006

In thinking about the class I might teach with tOFP, I’m also considering what the meaningful ties are between these new tools and fiction writing, and I keep coming back to the issue of the changing role of the author. In Who Owns Academic Work?, Corrine McSherry does a really brilliant job of tying the rise of the genius-author to the development of intellectual property. The arrangement has held up for centuries, largely because of the high costs of production.

The new web tools just entering into wide use are beginning to fulfill the web’s promise to make it possible for anyone to publish. It will be some time before anyone really knows how this shift will affect the world of fiction writers, I can guess at some of it: More fiction will be available, published on the web. No doubt the great mass of it will be badly written, but the total amount of really good writing available out there will increase as well, as there are significantly more good writers out there than old modes of production could support.

Like everything else, the question will be how to locate the good stuff. And in a world where great fiction is available for free, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to find economically viable models to to support yourself via fiction writing. At the same time, the opportunities for connecting to and finding meaningful support from communities of writers will increase tremendously. I was lucky enough as an undergraduate to be adopted by a group of graduate students who’d formed a writing group, and this provided me with my first sense of how writers might help one another improve their writing. While graduate school soured me on the writing workshops in general, I did make meaningful friendships with people who’ve greatly influenced my writing. I’m fascinated by how emerging web tools might support these kinds of connections.

How, then, to sort through all of this and fold it into a sensible class…?

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