The digital death of the author

The biggest change is not in the form stories take but in the writing process. Digital media changes books by changing the nature of authorship. Stories no longer have to arrive fully actualised. On the simplest level, books can be pushed to e-readers in a Dickensian chapter-by-chapter format – as author Max Barry did with his latest book, Machine Man. Beyond that, authorship becomes a collaboration between writers and readers. Readers can edit and update stories, either passively in comments on blogs or actively via wiki-style interfaces. Authors can gauge reader interest as the story unfolds and decide whether certain narrative threads are worth exploring.

For better or for worse, live iteration frees authors from their private writing cells; the audience becomes directly engaged with the process. Writers no longer have to hold their breath for years as their work is written, edited and finally published to find out if their book has legs. In turn they can be more brazen and spelunk down literary caves that would have hitherto been too risky. The vast exposure brought by digital media also means that those risky niche topics can find their niche audiences.

The impact on storytelling is subtle. It may not change the writing’s core ethos. And the final form of the output (paragraphs, chapters, etc) may not feel so different from digitised editions of printed books. What does change, however, is the very process of creation: the movement from idea to text to reader. It may not be as overt as flying text, embedded movies and interactive chapters, but it is having a far more profound impact on the words we read.

From: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/11/storytelling-20-the-digital-death-of-the-author.html

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June 9, 2011. Uncategorized.

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