What Matters Who Writes? What Matters Who Responds?

Andrea Lunsford, Rebecca Rickly, Michael Salvo, and Susan West

What Dyson predicts is nothing short of the ultimate triumph of process over product—though it is a triumph few of us are willing to embrace or perhaps can even understand. As Dyson's work makes clear, however, nowhere has the electronic revolution posed more difficult questions than in issues regarding ownership. And where ownership is concerned, it currently matters a very great deal, especially to commercial interests, who writes and who reads— because what is currently up for grabs—seriously and completely up for grabs, in my opinion—is what "who" will mean, how this "who" will be legally and institutionally construed, and how rights to property and hence to monetary gain will be resolved. Even as we speak, folks are out there trying to patent and copyright everything imaginable, from genetic tissue to rain forest plants to computer monitoring devices that will issue charges for each use of information. In the same issue of Wired,  for example, a new "digital watermark" is described, a code that can be inserted invisibly into images, hence "signing" them and making them susceptible to tracing if and when they are pirated and sold or given away. Some years ago, the noted anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted that "something is happening to the way we think about the way we think." Geertz was clearly accurate in his observation. And it seems no less clear today that something is happening to the way we put value on what we value. If the locus of authority and value and honor and reward is not to be the romantic, singular "author" or "author construct" or "author function"—what then? In Dyson's world, the value shifts to "services, to the selection of content, to the presence of other people, and to the assurance of... reliable information.... In short, intellectual assets and property depreciate while intellectual processes and services appreciate" (184). (If she is anywhere near right, we teachers should note, the need for what we tend to call critical literacy--the ability to discriminate among vast amounts of data, to sort through specious information, to test knowledge claims, and to do high-level critical thinking--will be a crucial element of success.) Now if you would like to take a crash course in the debates surrounding these issues, just sign on for a while to the bulletin board CNI/COPYRlGHT.
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Postmodern (un)grounding * Collaboration * Copy(w)right/Ownership * Possible Futures

Title Page * Conclusions