The growth of the author

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Writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Matthew Kirschenbaum asks “What Is an @uthor?” Some key passages require a bit of effort to get through, but if you manage to navigate the academic jargon there’s an interesting point being made about the boundaries of an author’s identity and production in the digital age. “The keepers of our collective cultural archives are in the midst of coming to terms with the global data store that is the true register of what ‘cyberspace’ has become.”

Today you cannot write seriously about contemporary literature without taking into account myriad channels and venues for online exchange. That in and of itself may seem uncontroversial, but I submit we have not yet fully grasped all of the ramifications. We might start by examining the extent to which social media and writers’ online presences or platforms are reinscribing the authority of authorship. The mere profusion of images of the celebrity author visually cohabitating the same embodied space as us, the abundance of first-person audio/visual documentation, the pressure on authors to self-mediate and self-promote their work through their individual online identities, and the impact of the kind of online interactions described above (those Woody Allenesque “wobbles”) have all changed the nature of authorial presence. Authorship, in short, has become a kind of media, algorithmically tractable and traceable and disseminated and distributed across the same networks and infrastructure carrying other kinds of previously differentiated cultural production.

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