i I love my job, for a whoe bunch of different reasons: for example, it exists. (Piece of dark humor that summarizes a moment: What’s the hot new status symbol in Silicon Valley? A job.) One thing I always find a little disconcerting is the way things I’ll write in internal e-mails, or say in a meeting, will find their way into a research proposal, or one of our articles.
This isn’t an illegitimate appropriation of my work– I incorporate lots of other people’s ideas in my work, no doubt– but a reflection of how different the lines of authorship and attribution are in this world versus the academic one. We have a very collective style of writing here– sometimes we all work on a piece, sometimes sections are divvied up, and sometimes an article will get revised so substantially by so many different people that it tips from being heavily edited to co-authored. And my name gets on everything I contribute to, so I have no complaints on that front.
But there are research outfits that that deliberately obscure authorship, as via Moore’s Lore reports:
There is a “hot new” research outfit in England called Rethink Research. It’s headed by Peter White, formerly of Comptuerwire, and Caroline Gabriel, formerly of VNU….
Rethink has no author credits on its reports. It depends entirely on the brand to carry the day. It does this deliberately, to keep any writer from getting too much salary, and to keep successful ones from gaining the reputation needed to go out on their own.
But they don’t just shortchange the writers here. They shortchange the customers. I don’t know whether this report was done by qualified experts of a bunch of Googling Monkeys.
i I find the middle paragraph pretty chilling, especially given that I’ve been staying up extra late trying to finish my piece on actor-network theory and pervasive computing, which is part of a campaign to build what Tom Peters calls “the brand of me.” But it also raises a question: How much of what’s written has authors?
For most of us– certainly for academics and postacademics– authorship is a no-brainer. Of course things have authors, unless you want to deconstruct the notion of the “Author.” But think of all the texts we encounter in our daily lives that don’t have author credit: everything from street signs to forms to encyclopedia entries (the majority of which are unsigned). For all our attention to it, is authorship the exception rather than the rule?
[To the tune of Giovanni Da Palestrina, “Gloria,” from the album Missa Papae Marcelli, Missa Aeterna Christi Munera.]