Essay of the Day: Distributed Authorship and Creative Communities

Penny

We’re very happy to present this paper, featuring a contribution from our associate Penny Travlou.


 

Biggs, Simon and Travlou, Penny (2015) “Distributed Authorship and Creative Communities”, in Scott Retteberg, Patricia Tomaszek and Sandy Baldwin (eds) Electronic Literature Communities. Morgantown, WV: Computing Literature, The Center for Literacy Computing, pp. 29-44

In its requirement for both an author and reader art can be considered a participatory activity. Expanded concepts of agency allows us to question what or who can be an active participant, allowing us to revisit the debate on authorship from a new perspective. We can ask whether creativity might be regarded as a form of social interaction rather than an outcome. How might we understand creativity as interaction between people and things, as sets of discursive relations rather than outcomes?

Whilst creativity is often perceived as the product of the individual artist, or creative ensemble, it can also be considered an emergent phenomenon of communities, driving change and facilitating individual or ensemble creativity. Creativity can be a performative activity released when engaged through and by a community and understood as a process of interaction.

In this context, the model of the solitary artist who produces artefacts which embody creativity is questioned as an ideal for achieving creative outcomes. Instead, creativity is proposed as an activity of exchange that enables (creates) people and communities. In Creative Land (Leach 2003) anthropologist James Leach describes cultural practices where the creation of new things, and the ritualised forms of exchange enacted around them, function to “create” individuals and bind them in social groups, “creating” the community they inhabit. Leach’s argument is an interesting take on the concept of the gift-economy and suggests it is possible to conceive of creativity as emergent from and innate to the interactions of people. Such an understanding might then function to combat an instrumentalist view of creativity that demands of artists that their creations have social (e.g.: “economic”) value. In the argument proposed here, creativity is not valued as arising from a perceived need, a particular solution or product, nor from a supply-side “blue skies” ideal, but as an emergent property of communities.

This chapter seeks to articulate these issues, identifying a set of core questions and describing the context within which they will be addressed, indicating how these questions are at the centre of the pan-European Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice (ELMCIP) collaborative research project, undertaken from 2010-2013 and funded through the Humanities in the European Research Area Joint Research Programme. The chapter examines a specific example of a creative community i.e. Furtherfield and outlines the research methods we intend to employ during our proposed fieldwork.

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