Sunday, February 28, 2010

Open-Source Authenticity

Today's New York Times "Ideas and Trends" feature is pegged to the flap over German novelist Helene Hegemann's Axolotl Roadkill, which was published last month, and which plagiarizes remixes passages from various other books. Hegemann is unapologetic: “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” she insists.

This leads the Times' Randy Kennedy to lead us in a thought exercise. Kennedy writes:
Think of almost any kind of cultural endeavor and then use the word “we” to describe its creation. The communal pronoun trips easily off the tongue when talking about the world of contemporary arts and entertainment, where things are often the product of teams, workshops, studios or institutions, where collaboration and idea-swapping are the norm. But now try applying it to creative writing, especially to fiction and poetry, and it can sound absurd: “We worked for years on the character development and the voice, and when we finally nailed the subtle epiphany, we cracked open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate.”

Not that there isn’t the occasional team-written novel. But the popular conception of the creative writer is still by and large one of the individual trying to wrestle language, maybe even the meaning of life, from his soul, the kind of lone battle Jonathan Franzen described himself waging in writing The Corrections, which he sometimes did in the dark, wearing earplugs and earmuffs, trying to hold his mind “free of clich├ęs.”
Kennedy's story isn't actually about crowdsourced or open-source art; it's not about team-writing. It's about pastiche, cut-up, remixing. But his thought exercise — well, I'm tempted to steal upcycle it for my opening remarks at SXSW!


  1. What's wrong with "recycling" nowadays? :)
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  2. Cracking post, I agree that there is nothing wrong with recycling!

  3. Really looking forward this, can't wait!
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  4. Awesome thanks and this should be really interesting.
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  5. Really interesting idea, not sure if it would be the best idea though!
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