Monday, December 11, 2006

Eavesdropping is not always a bad thing

There's an excellent conversation going on over at Snarkmarket about the nature of authorship, especially in the digital age. (Prompted by an article in Forbes, which ran a pretty good series in a recent issue.)

Tim from Short-Schrift brought the Forbes issue to my attention a while ago—there's some interesting stuff on copyrights and an entertaining piece on McSweeney's—and the piece on authorship was written by Ben Vershbow of Institute for the Future of the Book, whose if:book blog I recently de-linked from this page.

Why? And why am I not attempting to continue the discussion here? Because I am convinced that most of the potential for hypertext, interactive composition, and online presentation exists for informational and non-fiction texts. I think the way we get information has been revolutionized, and the next few years will lead us further away from printed, static newspapers and encyclopedias. This is all fabulous, but you may have noticed that I don't write about non-fiction.

It is still possible that there will be new methods of storytelling that take advantage of the new ways of creating and disseminating texts, but as the Snarkmarket discussion points out, reading is already a collaborative activity. I haven't seen much in the way of engaging hypertext fiction, but I've had some great discussions and seen some great performances of Shakespeare. Every new staging, every new reading, every new performance creates meaning. But having a central text gives us a common point of reference.

New news is great, but what Pound said about poetry remains true today.

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