www.dichtung-digital.com/2001/09/30-Simanowski

Death of the Author? Death of the reader!

by Roberto Simanowski

The paper takes a short look at the much discussed dismissal of the author in hypertext collaborative writing and discusses the role of authorship in three German collaborative writing projects. The results are:

  • Collaboration sometimes works like collaboration with the 'enemy.' The pleasure of some collaborative writing projects therefore derives not so much from the story itself as from what the text reveals about its authors.
  • The pleasure of some collaborative writing project lies in the setting more than in the contributed texts. What fails as Netliterature may get a second chance as Netart.
  • If the program of a collaborative writing project automatically and randomly creates the links and develops the structure of the whole, it takes over the collaboration between authors and their texts.

The conclusion is: As the text itself becomes more and more part of a technical setting, and as the program moves more and more into the center, the project of collaborative writing gradually dismisses the reader. To a user who accidentally stops by and starts to read, the text itself doesn't say all that much. She has to become a writer, she has to join the authors, including their discussion group, in order to understand what's going on and to enjoy the project. One has to take part in this group, one has to read this 'text' to enjoy the other, 'official' text. Quality of text, in the way critics use to approach this issue, doesn't matter any more. What matters is the event of which one is part of. Someone who is not in the game might not enjoy watching it, unless he or she approaches for other reasons like researching the dynamic of the group, the 'social aesthetics' behind the text itself.

full paper

(given at conference p0es1s - poetics of digital text )