Fitzpatrick Planned Obsolescence and Authorship

Fitzpatrick’s chapter “Authorship” in Planned Obsolescence tackles the challenges presented by digital technologies of academic authorship, especially in the humanities. In the humanities, academics are expected to produce creative and original work on their own (in contrast to the science where multiple authorship is common.) Single authorship causes anxiety, Fitzpatrick argues, because the demands of producing scholarship and how scholars tend to tie their work (and ideas) to their egos. Single authorship, she notes, is a product of historical and cultural forces, which created copyright laws and the environment of scholarly publishing. Some critics and philosophers (Michel Foucault among them) have noted that the author has “died.” Moreover, the digital world, however, has forced the academy to consider where authors fit in the internet era where the gift-giving economy, collaboration, “remixing,” and the process is privileged and important. Fitzpatrick suggests that the academic community should start to assimilate community, “remixing,” and process into their own work.

This chapter raises a few important questions. Has “single” authorship, and the authority that accompanies it, really been accorded to individuals? What role do governments, universities, and publishers play in backing or “creating” single authorship? The chapter suggests, as do some thinkers, that the author is “dead”; is this really the case? If academics are to make shifts based on the world of the internet what kind of collaborative authorship or creation is useful or not? What about the other innovations? What would be useful or not?

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