In 2013, the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society
(ALCS)(ch3.xhtml#footnote-152) commissioned a survey of its members to
explore writers’ earnings and contractual issues in the UK. The survey, the
results of which were published in the summary booklet ‘What Are Words Worth
Now?’, was carried out by Queen Mary, University of London. Almost 2,500
writers — from literary authors to academics and screenwriters — responded.
‘What Are Words Worth Now?’ summarises the findings of a larger study titled
‘The Business Of Being An Author: A Survey Of Authors’ Earnings And
Contracts’, carried out by Johanna Gibson, Phillip Johnson and Gaetano Dimita
and published in April 2015 by Queen Mary University of
London.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-151) The ALCS press release that accompanies the
study states that this ‘shocking’ new research into authors’ earnings finds a
‘dramatic fall, both in incomes, and the number of those working full-time as
writers’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-150) Indeed, two of the main findings of the
study are that, first of all, the income of a professional author (which the
research defines as those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing)
has dropped 29% between 2005 and 2013, from £12,330 (£15,450 in real terms) to
just £11,000. Furthermore, the research found that in 2005 40% of professional
authors earned their incomes solely from writing, where in 2013 this figure
had dropped to just 11.5%.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-149)
It seems that one of the primary reasons for the ALCS to conduct this survey
was to collect ‘accurate, independent data’ on writers’ earnings and
contractual issues, in order for the ALCS to ‘make the case for authors’
rights’ — at least, that is what the ALCS Chief Executive Owen Atkinson writes
in the introduction accompanying the survey, which was sent out to all ALCS
members.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-148) Yet although this research was conducted
independently and the researchers did not draw conclusions based on the data
collected — in the form of policy recommendations for example — the ALCS did
frame the data and findings in a very specific way, as I will outline in what
follows; this framing includes both the introduction to the survey and the
press release that accompanies the survey’s findings. Yet to some extent this
framing, as I will argue, is already apparent in the methodology used to
produce the data underlying the research report.
First of all, let me provide an example of how the research findings have been
framed in a specific way. Chief Executive Atkinson mentions in his
introduction to the survey that the ALCS ‘exists to ensure that writers are
treated fairly and remunerated appropriately’. He continues that the ALCS
commissioned the survey to collect ‘accurate, independent data,’ in order to
‘make the case for writers’ rights’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-147) Now this focus
on rights in combination with remuneration is all the more noteworthy if we
look at an earlier ALCS funded report from 2007, ‘Authors’ Earnings from
Copyright and Non-Copyright Sources: a Survey of 25,000 British and German
Writers’. This report is based on the findings of a 2006 writers’ survey,
which the 2013 survey updates. The 2007 report argues conclusively that
current copyright law has empirically failed to ensure that authors receive
appropriate reward or remuneration for the use of their
work.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-146) The data from the subsequent 2013 survey show
an even bleaker picture as regards the earnings of writers. Yet Atkinson
argues in the press release accompanying the findings of the 2013 survey that
‘if writers are to continue making their irreplaceable contribution to the UK
economy, they need to be paid fairly for their work. This means ensuring
clear, fair contracts with equitable terms and a copyright regime that support
creators and their ability to earn a living from their
creations’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-145) Atkinson does not outline what this
copyright regime should be, nor does he draw attention to how this model could
be improved. More importantly, the fact that a copyright model is needed to
ensure fair pay stands uncontested for Atkinson and the ALCS — not surprising
perhaps, as protecting and promoting the rights of authors is the primary
mission of this member society. If there is any culprit to be held responsible
for the study’s ‘shocking’ findings, it is the elusive and further undefined
notion of ‘the digital’. According to Atkinson, digital technology is
increasingly challenging the mission of the ALCS to ensure fair remuneration
for writers, since it is ‘driving new markets and leading the copyright
debate’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-144) The 2013 study is therefore, as Atkinson
states ‘the first to capture the impact of the digital revolution on writers’
working lives’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-143) This statement is all the more
striking if we take into consideration that none of the questions in the 2013
survey focus specifically on digital publishing.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-142)
It therefore seems that — despite earlier findings — the ALCS has already
decided in advance what ‘the digital’ is and that a copyright regime is the
only way to ensure fair remuneration for writers in a digital context.
## Creative Industries
This strong uncontested link between copyright and remuneration can be traced
back to various other aspects of the 2015 report and its release. For example,
the press release draws a strong connection between the findings of the report
and the development of the creative industries in the UK. Again, Atkinson
states in the press release:
These are concerning times for writers. This rapid decline in both author
incomes and in the numbers of those writing full-time could have serious
implications for the economic success of the creative industries in the
This connection to the creative industries — ‘which are now worth £71.4
billion per year to the UK economy’,(ch3.xhtml#footnote-140) Atkinson
points out — is not surprising where the discourse around creative industries
maintains a clear bond between intellectual property rights and creative
labour. As Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter state in their MyCreativity Reader,
the creative industries consist of ‘the generation and exploitation of
intellectual property’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-139) Here they refer to a
definition created as part of the UK Government’s Creative Industries Mapping
Document,(ch3.xhtml#footnote-138) which states that the creative
industries are ‘those industries which have their origin in individual
creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job
creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’.
Lovink and Rossiter point out that the relationship between IP and creative
labour lies at the basis of the definition of the creative industries where,
as they argue, this model of creativity assumes people only create to produce
economic value. This is part of a larger trend Wendy Brown has described as
being quintessentially neoliberal, where ‘neoliberal rationality disseminates
the model of the market to all domains and activities’ — and this includes the
realm of politics and rights.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-137) In this sense the
economization of culture and the concept of creativity is something that has
become increasingly embedded and naturalised. The exploitation of intellectual
property stands at the basis of the creative industries model, in which
cultural value — which can be seen as intricate, complex and manifold —
becomes subordinated to the model of the market; it becomes economic
This direct association of cultural value and creativity with economic value
is apparent in various other facets of the ALCS commissioned research and
report. Obviously, the title of the initial summary booklet, as a form of
wordplay, asks ‘What are words worth?’. It becomes clear from the context of
the survey that the ‘worth’ of words will only be measured in a monetary
sense, i.e. as economic value. Perhaps even more important to understand in
this context, however, is how this economic worth of words is measured and
determined by focusing on two fixed and predetermined entities in advance.
First of all, the study focuses on individual human agents of creativity (i.e.
creators contributing economic value): the value of writing is established by
collecting data and making measurements at the level of individual authorship,
addressing authors/writers as singular individuals throughout the survey.
Secondly, economic worth is further determined by focusing on the fixed and
stable creative objects authors produce, in other words the study establishes
from the outset a clear link between the worth and value of writing and
economic remuneration based on individual works of
writing.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-135) Therefore in this process of determining
the economic worth of words, ‘writers’ and/or ‘authors’ are described and
positioned in a certain way in this study (i.e. as the central agents and
originators of creative objects), as is the form their creativity takes in the
shape of quantifiable outputs or commodities. The value of both these units of
measurement (the creator and the creative objects) are then set off against
the growth of the creative industries in the press release.
The ALCS commissioned survey provides some important insights into how
authorship, cultural works and remuneration — and ultimately, creativity — is
currently valued, specifically in the context of the creative industries
discourse in the UK. What I have tried to point out — without wanting to
downplay the importance either of writers receiving fair remuneration for
their work or of issues related to the sustainability of creative processes —
is that the findings from this survey have both been extracted and
subsequently framed based on a very specific economic model of creativity (and
authorship). According to this model, writing and creativity are sustained
most clearly by an individual original creator (an author) who extracts value
from the work s/he creates and distributes, aided by an intellectual property
rights regime. As I will outline more in depth in what follows, the enduring
liberal and humanist presumptions that underlie this survey continuously
reinforce the links between the value of writing and established IP and
remuneration regimes, and support a vision in which authorship and creativity
are dependent on economic incentives and ownership of works. By working within
this framework and with these predetermined concepts of authorship and
creativity (and ‘the digital’) the ALCS is strongly committed to the upkeep of
a specific model and discourse of creativity connected to the creative
industries. The ALCS does not attempt to complicate this model, nor does it
search for alternatives even when, as the 2007 report already implies, the
existing IP model has empirically failed to support the remuneration of
I want to use this ALCS survey as a reference point to start problematising
existing constructions of creativity, authorship, ownership, and
sustainability in relation to the ethics of publishing. To explore what ‘words
are worth’ and to challenge the hegemonic liberal humanist model of creativity
— to which the ALCS adheres — I will examine a selection of theoretical and
practical publishing and writing alternatives, from relational and posthuman
authorship to radical open access and uncreative writing. These alternatives
do not deny the importance of fair remuneration and sustainability for the
creative process; however, they want to foreground and explore creative
relationalities that move beyond the individual author and her ownership of
creative objects as the only model to support creativity and cultural
exchange. By looking at alternatives while at the same time complicating the
values and assumptions underlying the dominant narrative for IP expansion, I
want to start imagining what more ethical, fair and emergent forms of
creativity might entail. Forms that take into consideration the various
distributed and entangled agencies involved in the creation of cultural
content — which are presently not being included in the ALCS survey on fair
remuneration, for example. As I will argue, a reconsideration of the liberal
and humanist model of creativity might actually create new possibilities to
consider the value of words, and with that perhaps new solutions to the
problems pointed out in the ALCS study.
## Relational and Distributed Authorship
One of the main critiques of the liberal humanist model of authorship concerns
how it privileges the author as the sole source and origin of creativity. Yet
the argument has been made, both from a historical perspective and in relation
to today’s networked digital environment, that authorship and creativity, and
with that the value and worth of that creativity, are heavily
distributed.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-134) Should we therefore think about how
we can distribute notions of authorship and creativity more ethically when
defining the worth and value of words too? Would this perhaps mean a more
thorough investigation of what and who the specific agencies involved in
creative production are? This seems all the more important given that, today,
‘the value of words’ is arguably connected not to (distributed) authors or
creative agencies, but to rights holders (or their intermediaries such as
agents).(ch3.xhtml#footnote-133) From this perspective, the problem with
the copyright model as it currently functions is that the creators of
copyright don’t necessarily end up benefiting from it — a point that was also
implied by the authors of the 2007 ALCS commissioned report. Copyright
benefits rights holders, and rights holders are not necessarily, and often not
at all, involved in the production of creative work.
Yet copyright and the work as object are knit tightly to the authorship
construct. In this respect, the above criticism notwithstanding, in a liberal
vision of creativity and ownership the typical unit remains either the author
or the work. This ‘solid and fundamental unit of the author and the work’ as
Foucault has qualified it, albeit challenged, still retains a privileged
position.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-132) As Mark Rose argues, authorship — as a
relatively recent cultural formation — can be directly connected to the
commodification of writing and to proprietorship. Even more it developed in
tandem with the societal principle of possessive individualism, in which
individual property rights are protected by the social
Some of the more interesting recent critiques of these constructs of
authorship and proprietorship have come from critical and feminist legal
studies, where scholars such as Carys Craig have started to question these
connections further. As Craig, Turcotte and Coombe argue, IP and copyright are
premised on liberal and neoliberal assumptions and constructs, such as
ownership, private rights, self-interest and
individualism.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-130) In this sense copyright,
authorship, the work as object, and related discourses around creativity
continuously re-establish and strengthen each other as part of a self-
sustaining system. We have seen this with the discourse around creative
industries, as part of which economic value comes to stand in for the creative
process itself, which, according to this narrative, can only be sustained
through an IP regime. Furthermore, from a feminist new materialist position,
the current discourse on creativity is very much a material expression of
creativity rather than merely its representation, where this discourse has
been classifying, constructing, and situating creativity (and with that,
authorship) within a neoliberal framework of creative industries.
Moving away from an individual construct of creativity therefore immediately
affects the question of the value of words. In our current copyright model
emphasis lies on the individual original author, but in a more distributed
vision the value of words and of creative production can be connected to a
broader context of creative agencies. Historically there has been a great
discursive shift from a valuing of imitation or derivation to a valuing of
originality in determining what counts as creativity or creative output.
Similar to Rose, Craig, Turcotte and Coombe argue that the individuality and
originality of authorship in its modern form established a simple route
towards individual ownership and the propertisation of creative achievement:
the original work is the author’s ownership whereas the imitator or pirate is
a trespasser of thief. In this sense original authorship is
‘disproportionately valued against other forms of cultural expression and
creative play’, where copyright upholds, maintains and strengthens the binary
between imitator and creator — defined by Craig, Turcotte and Coombe as a
‘moral divide’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-129) This also presupposes a notion of
creativity that sees individuals as autonomous, living in isolation from each
other, ignoring their relationality. Yet as Craig, Turcotte and Coombe argue,
‘the act of writing involves not origination, but rather the adaptation,
derivation, translation and recombination of “raw material” taken from
previously existing texts’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-128) This position has also
been explored extensively from within remix studies and fan culture, where the
adaptation and remixing of cultural content stands at the basis of creativity
(what Lawrence Lessig has called Read/Write culture, opposed to Read/Only
culture).(ch3.xhtml#footnote-127) From the perspective of access to
culture — instead of ownership of cultural goods or objects — one could also
argue that its value would increase when we are able to freely distribute it
and with that to adapt and remix it to create new cultural content and with
that cultural and social value — this within a context in which, as Craig,
Turcotte and Coombe point out, ‘the continuous expansion of intellectual
property rights has produced legal regimes that restrict access and downstream
use of information resources far beyond what is required to encourage their
To move beyond Enlightenment ideals of individuation, detachment and unity of
author and work, which determine the author-owner in the copyright model,
Craig puts forward a post-structuralist vision of relational authorship. This
sees the individual as socially situated and constituted — based also on
feminist scholarship into the socially situated self — where authorship in
this vision is situated within the communities in which it exists, but also in
relation to the texts and discourses that constitute it. Here creativity takes
place from within a network of social relations and the social dimensions of
authorship are recognised, as connectivity goes hand in hand with individual
autonomy. Craig argues that copyright should not be defined out of clashing
rights and interests but should instead focus on the kinds of relationships
this right would structure; it should be understood in relational terms: ‘it
structures relationships between authors and users, allocating powers and
responsibilities amongst members of cultural communities, and establishing the
rules of communication and exchange’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-125) Cultural
value is then defined within these relationships.
## Open Access and the Ethics of Care
Craig, Turcotte and Coombe draw a clear connection between relational
authorship, feminism and (the ideals of) the open access movement, where as
they state, ‘rather than adhering to the individuated form of authorship that
intellectual property laws presuppose, open access initiatives take into
account varying forms of collaboration, creativity and
development’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-124) Yet as I and others have argued
elsewhere,(ch3.xhtml#footnote-123) open access or open access publishing
is not a solid ideological block or model; it is made up of disparate groups,
visions and ethics. In this sense there is nothing intrinsically political or
democratic about open access, practitioners of open access can just as well be
seen to support and encourage open access in connection with the neoliberal
knowledge economy, with possessive individualism — even with CC licenses,
which can be seen as strengthening individualism —(ch3.xhtml#footnote-122)
and with the unity of author and work.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-121)
Nevertheless, there are those within the loosely defined and connected
‘radical open access community’, that do envision their publishing outlook and
relationship towards copyright, openness and authorship within and as part of
a relational ethics of care.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-120) For example Mattering
Press, a scholar-led open access book publishing initiative founded in 2012
and launched in 2016, publishes in the field of Science and Technology Studies
(STS) and works with a production model based on cooperation and shared
scholarship. As part of its publishing politics, ethos and ideology, Mattering
Press is therefore keen to include various agencies involved in the production
of scholarship, including ‘authors, reviewers, editors, copy editors, proof
readers, typesetters, distributers, designers, web developers and
readers’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-119) They work with two interrelated feminist
(new materialist) and STS concepts to structure and perform this ethos:
mattering(ch3.xhtml#footnote-118) and care.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-117)
Where it concerns mattering, Mattering Press is conscious of how their
experiment in knowledge production, being inherently situated, puts new
relationships and configurations into the world. What therefore matters for
them are not so much the ‘author’ or the ‘outcome’ (the object), but the
process and the relationships that make up publishing:
[…] the way academic texts are produced matters — both analytically and
politically. Dominant publishing practices work with assumptions about the
conditions of academic knowledge production that rarely reflect what goes on
in laboratories, field sites, university offices, libraries, and various
workshops and conferences. They tend to deal with almost complete manuscripts
and a small number of authors, who are greatly dependent on the politics of
the publishing industry.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-116)
For Mattering Press care is something that extends not only to authors but to
the many other actants involved in knowledge production, who often provide
free volunteer labour within a gift economy context. As Mattering Press
emphasises, the ethics of care ‘mark vital relations and practices whose value
cannot be calculated and thus often goes unacknowledged where logics of
calculation are dominant’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-115) For Mattering Press,
care can help offset and engage with the calculative logic that permeates
[…] the concept of care can help to engage with calculative logics, such as
those of costs, without granting them dominance. How do we calculate so that
calculations do not dominate our considerations? What would it be to care for
rather than to calculate the cost of a book? This is but one and arguably a
relatively conservative strategy for allowing other logics than those of
calculation to take centre stage in publishing.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-114)
This logic of care refers, in part, to making visible the ‘unseen others’ as
Joe Deville (one of Mattering Press’s editors) calls them, who exemplify the
plethora of hidden labour that goes unnoticed within this object and author-
focused (academic) publishing model. As Endre Danyi, another Mattering Press
editor, remarks, quoting Susan Leigh Star: ‘This is, in the end, a profoundly
political process, since so many forms of social control rely on the erasure
or silencing of various workers, on deleting their work from representations
of the work’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-113)
## Posthuman Authorship
Authorship is also being reconsidered as a polyvocal and collaborative
endeavour by reflecting on the agentic role of technology in authoring
content. Within digital literature, hypertext and computer-generated poetry,
media studies scholars have explored the role played by technology and the
materiality of text in the creation process, where in many ways writing can be
seen as a shared act between reader, writer and computer. Lori Emerson
emphasises that machines, media or technology are not neutral in this respect,
which complicates the idea of human subjectivity. Emerson explores this
through the notion of ‘cyborg authorship’, which examines the relation between
machine and human with a focus on the potentiality of in-
betweenness.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-112) Dani Spinosa talks about
‘collaboration with an external force (the computer, MacProse, technology in
general)’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-111) Extending from the author, the text
itself, and the reader as meaning-writer (and hence playing a part in the
author function), technology, she states, is a fourth term in this
collaborative meaning-making. As Spinosa argues, in computer-generated texts
the computer is more than a technological tool and becomes a co-producer,
where it can occur that ‘the poet herself merges with the machine in order to
place her own subjectivity in flux’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-110) Emerson calls
this a ‘break from the model of the poet/writer as divinely inspired human
exemplar’, which is exemplified for her in hypertext, computer-generated
poetry, and digital poetry.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-109)
Yet in many ways, as Emerson and Spinosa also note, these forms of posthuman
authorship should be seen as part of a larger trend, what Rolf Hughes calls an
‘anti-authorship’ tradition focused on auto-poesis (self-making), generative
systems and automatic writing. As Hughes argues, we see this tradition in
print forms such as Oulipo and in Dada experiments and surrealist games
too.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-108) But there are connections here with broader
theories that focus on distributed agency too, especially where it concerns
the influence of the materiality of the text. Media theorists such as N.
Katherine Hayles and Johanna Drucker have extensively argued that the
materiality of the page is entangled with the intentionality of the author as
a further agency; Drucker conceptualises this through a focus on ‘conditional
texts’ and ‘performative materiality’ with respect to the agency of the
material medium (be it the printed page or the digital
Where, however, does the redistribution of value creation end in these
narratives? As Nick Montfort states with respect to the agency of technology,
‘should other important and inspirational mechanisms — my CD player, for
instance, and my bookshelves — get cut in on the action as
well?’(ch3.xhtml#footnote-106) These distributed forms of authorship do
not solve issues related to authorship or remuneration but further complicate
them. Nevertheless Montfort is interested in describing the processes involved
in these types of (posthuman) co-authorship, to explore the (previously
unexplored) relationships and processes involved in the authoring of texts
more clearly. As he states, this ‘can help us understand the role of the
different participants more fully’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-105) In this
respect a focus on posthuman authorship and on the various distributed
agencies that play a part in creative processes is not only a means to disrupt
the hegemonic focus on a romantic single and original authorship model, but it
is also about a sensibility to (machinic) co-authorship, to the different
agencies involved in the creation of art, and playing a role in creativity
itself. As Emerson remarks in this respect: ‘we must be wary of granting a
(romantic) specialness to human intentionality — after all, the point of
dividing the responsibility for the creation of the poems between human and
machine is to disrupt the singularity of human identity, to force human
identity to intermingle with machine identity’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-104)
## Emergent Creativity
This more relational notion of rights and the wider appreciation of the
various (posthuman) agencies involved in creative processes based on an ethics
of care, challenges the vision of the single individualised and original
author/owner who stands at the basis of our copyright and IP regime — a vision
that, it is worth emphasising, can be seen as a historical (and Western)
anomaly, where collaborative, anonymous, and more polyvocal models of
authorship have historically prevailed.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-103) The other
side of the Foucauldian double bind, i.e. the fixed cultural object that
functions as a commodity, has however been similarly critiqued from several
angles. As stated before, and as also apparent from the way the ALCS report
has been framed, currently our copyright and remuneration regime is based on
ownership of cultural objects. Yet as many have already made clear, this
regime and discourse is very much based on physical objects and on a print-
based context.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-102) As such the idea of ‘text’ (be it
print or digital) has not been sufficiently problematised as versioned,
processual and materially changing within an IP context. In other words, text
and works are mostly perceived as fixed and stable objects and commodities
instead of material and creative processes and entangled relationalities. As
Craig et al. state, ‘the copyright system is unfortunately employed to
reinforce the norms of the analog world’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-101) In
contrast to a more relational perspective, the current copyright regime views
culture through a proprietary lens. And it is very much this discursive
positioning, or as Craig et al. argue ‘the language of “ownership,”
“property,” and “commodity”’, which ‘obfuscates the nature of copyright’s
subject matter, and cloaks the social and cultural conditions of its
production and the implications of its
protection’.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-100) How can we approach creativity in
context, as socially and culturally situated, and not as the free-standing,
stable product of a transcendent author, which is very much how it is being
positioned within an economic and copyright framework? This hegemonic
conception of creativity as property fails to acknowledge or take into
consideration the manifold, distributed, derivative and messy realities of
culture and creativity.
It is therefore important to put forward and promote another more emergent
vision of creativity, where creativity is seen as both processual and only
ever temporarily fixed, and where the work itself is seen as being the product
of a variety of (posthuman) agencies. Interestingly, someone who has written
very elaborately about a different form of creativity relevant to this context
is one of the authors of the ALCS commissioned report, Johanna Gibson. Similar
to Craig, who focuses on the relationality of copyright, Gibson wants to pay
more attention to the networking of creativity, moving it beyond a focus on
traditional models of producers and consumers in exchange for a ‘many-to-many’
model of creativity. For Gibson, IP as a system aligns with a corporate model
of creativity, one which oversimplifies what it means to be creative and
measures it against economic parameters alone.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-099) In
many ways in policy driven visions, IP has come to stand in for the creative
process itself, Gibson argues, and is assimilated within corporate models of
innovation. It has thus become a synonym for creativity, as we have seen in
the creative industries discourse. As Gibson explains, this simplified model
of creativity is very much a ‘discursive strategy’ in which the creator is
mythologised and output comes in the form of commodified
objects.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-098) In this sense we need to re-appropriate
creativity as an inherently fluid and uncertain concept and practice.
Yet this mimicry of creativity by IP and innovation at the same time means
that any re-appropriation of creativity from the stance of access and reuse is
targeted as anti-IP and thus as standing outside of formal creativity. Other,
more emergent forms of creativity have trouble existing within this self-
defining and sustaining hegemonic system. This is similar to what Craig
remarked with respect to remixed, counterfeit and pirated, and un-original
works, which are seen as standing outside the system. Gibson uses actor
network theory (ANT) as a framework to construct her network-based model of
creativity, where for her ANT allows for a vision that does not fix creativity
within a product, but focuses more on the material relationships and
interactions between users and producers. In this sense, she argues, a network
model allows for plural agencies to be attributed to creativity, including
those of users.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-097)
An interesting example of how the hegemonic object-based discourse of
creativity can be re-appropriated comes from the conceptual poet Kenneth
Goldsmith, who, in what could be seen as a direct response to this dominant
narrative, tries to emphasise that exactly what this discourse classifies as
‘uncreative’, should be seen as valuable in itself. Goldsmith points out that
appropriating is creative and that he uses it as a pedagogical method in his
classes on ‘Uncreative Writing’ (which he defines as ‘the art of managing
information and representing it as writing’(ch3.xhtml#footnote-096)). Here
‘uncreative writing’ is something to strive for and stealing, copying, and
patchwriting are elevated as important and valuable tools for writing. For
Goldsmith the digital environment has fostered new skills and notions of
writing beyond the print-based concepts of originality and authorship: next to
copying, editing, reusing and remixing texts, the management and manipulation
of information becomes an essential aspect of
creativity.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-095) Uncreative writing involves a
repurposing and appropriation of existing texts and works, which then become
materials or building blocks for further works. In this sense Goldsmith
critiques the idea of texts or works as being fixed when asking, ‘if artefacts
are always in flux, when is a historical work determined to be
“finished”?’(ch3.xhtml#footnote-094) At the same time, he argues, our
identities are also in flux and ever shifting, turning creative writing into a
post-identity literature.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-093) Machines play important
roles in uncreative writing, as active agents in the ‘managing of
information’, which is then again represented as writing, and is seen by
Goldsmith as a bridge between human-centred writing and full-blown
‘robopoetics’ (literature written by machines, for machines). Yet Goldsmith is
keen to emphasise that these forms of uncreative writing are not beholden to
the digital medium, and that pre-digital examples are plentiful in conceptual
literature and poetry. He points out — again by a discursive re-appropriation
of what creativity is or can be — that sampling, remixing and appropriation
have been the norm in other artistic and creative media for decades. The
literary world is lagging behind in this respect, where, despite the
experiments by modernist writers, it continues neatly to delineate avant-garde
from more general forms of writing. Yet as Goldsmith argues the digital has
started to disrupt this distinction again, moving beyond ‘analogue’ notions of
writing, and has fuelled with it the idea that there might be alternative
notions of writing: those currently perceived as
There are two addendums to the argument I have outlined above that I would
like to include here. First of all, I would like to complicate and further
critique some of the preconceptions still inherent in the relational and
networked copyright models as put forward by Craig et al. and Gibson. Both are
in many ways reformist and ‘responsive’ models. Gibson, for example, does not
want to do away with IP rights, she wants them to develop and adapt to mirror
society more accurately according to a networked model of creativity. For her,
the law is out of tune with its public, and she wants to promote a more
inclusive networked (copy) rights model.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-091) For Craig
too, relationalities are established and structured by rights first and
foremost. Yet from a posthuman perspective we need to be conscious of how the
other actants involved in creativity would fall outside such a humanist and
subjective rights model.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-090) From texts and
technologies themselves to the wider environmental context and to other
nonhuman entities and objects: in what sense will a copyright model be able to
extend such a network beyond an individualised liberal humanist human subject?
What do these models exclude in this respect and in what sense are they still
limited by their adherence to a rights model that continues to rely on
humanist nodes in a networked or relational model? As Anna Munster has argued
in a talk about the case of the monkey selfie, copyright is based on a logic
of exclusion that does not line up with the assemblages of agentic processes
that make up creativity and creative expression.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-089)
How can we appreciate the relational and processual aspects of identity, which
both Craig and Gibson seem to want to promote, if we hold on to an inherently
humanist concept of subjectification, rights and creativity?
Secondly, I want to highlight that we need to remain cautious of a movement
away from copyright and the copyright industries, to a context of free culture
in which free content — and the often free labour it is based upon — ends up
servicing the content industries (i.e. Facebook, Google, Amazon). We must be
wary when access or the narrative around (open) access becomes dominated by
access to or for big business, benefitting the creative industries and the
knowledge economy. The danger of updating and adapting IP law to fit a
changing digital context and to new technologies, of making it more inclusive
in this sense — which is something both Craig and Gibson want to do as part of
their reformative models — is that this tends to be based on a very simplified
and deterministic vision of technology, as something requiring access and an
open market to foster innovation. As Sarah Kember argues, this technocratic
rationale, which is what unites pro-and anti-copyright activists in this
sense, essentially de-politicises the debate around IP; it is still a question
of determining the value of creativity through an economic perspective, based
on a calculative lobby.(ch3.xhtml#footnote-088) The challenge here is to
redefine the discourse in such a way that our focus moves away from a dominant
market vision, and — as Gibson and Craig have also tried to do — to emphasise
a non-calculative ethics of relations, processes and care instead.
I would like to return at this point to the ALCS report and the way its
results have been framed within a creative industries discourse.
Notwithstanding the fact that fair remuneration and incentives for literary
production and creativity in general are of the utmost importance, what I have
tried to argue here is that the ‘solution’ proposed by the ALCS does not do
justice to the complexities of creativity. When discussing remuneration of
authors, the ALCS seems to prefer a simple solution in which copyright is seen
as a given, the digital is pointed out as a generalised scapegoat, and
binaries between print and digital are maintained and strengthened.
Furthermore, fair remuneration is encapsulated by the ALCS within an economic
calculative logic and rhetoric, sustained by and connected to a creative
industries discourse, which continuously recreates the idea that creativity
and innovation are one. Instead I have tried to put forward various
alternative visions and practices, from radical open access to posthuman
authorship and uncreative writing, based on vital relationships and on an
ethics of care and responsibility. These alternatives highlight distributed
and relational authorship and/or showcase a sensibility that embraces
posthuman agencies and processual publishing as part of a more complex,
emergent vision of creativity, open to different ideas of what creativity is
and can become. In this vision creativity is thus seen as relational, fluid
and processual and only ever temporarily fixed as part of our ethical decision
making: a decision-making process that is contingent on the contexts and
relationships with which we find ourselves entangled. This involves asking
questions about what writing is and does, and how creativity expands beyond
our established, static, or given concepts, which include copyright and a
focus on the author as a ‘homo economicus’, writing as inherently an
enterprise, and culture as commodified. As I have argued, the value of words,
indeed the economic worth and sustainability of words and of the ‘creative
industries’, can and should be defined within a different narrative. Opening
up from the hegemonic creative industries discourse and the way we perform it
through our writing practices might therefore enable us to explore extended
relationalities of emergent creativity, open-ended publishing processes, and a
feminist ethics of care and responsibility.
This contribution has showcased examples of experimental, hybrid and posthuman
writing and publishing practices that are intervening in this established
discourse on creativity. How, through them, can we start to performatively
explore a new discourse and reconfigure the relationships that underlie our
writing processes? How can the worth of writing be reflected in different
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and Michaela Spencer (2013) ‘Mattering Press: New Forms of Care for STS
Books’, The EASST Review 32.4,
Adema, Janneke (2017) ‘Cut-Up’, in Eduardo Navas (ed.), Keywords in Remix
Studies (New York and London: Routledge), pp. 104–14,
— (2014) ‘Embracing Messiness’, LSE Impact of Social Sciences,
— (2015) ‘Knowledge Production Beyond The Book? Performing the Scholarly
Monograph in Contemporary Digital Culture’ (PhD dissertation, Coventry
— (2014) ‘Open Access’, in Critical Keywords for the Digital Humanities
(Lueneburg: Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC)),
— and Gary Hall (2013) ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books
and Radical Open Access’, New Formations 78.1, 138–56,
— and Samuel Moore (2018) ‘Collectivity and Collaboration: Imagining New Forms
of Communality to Create Resilience in Scholar-Led Publishing’, Insights 31.3,
ALCS, Press Release (8 July 2014) ‘What Are Words Worth Now? Not Enough’,
Barad, Karen (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the
Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, N.C., and London: Duke University
Boon, Marcus (2010) In Praise of Copying (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Brown, Wendy (2015) Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution
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Chartier, Roger (1994) The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in
Europe Between the 14th and 18th Centuries, 1st ed. (Stanford, CA: Stanford
Craig, Carys J. (2011) Copyright, Communication and Culture: Towards a
Relational Theory of Copyright Law (Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA:
Edward Elgar Publishing).
— Joseph F. Turcotte, and Rosemary J. Coombe (2011) ‘What’s Feminist About
Open Access? A Relational Approach to Copyright in the Academy’, Feminists@law
Cramer, Florian (2013) Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts (Rotterdam and
New York, NY: nai010 publishers).
Drucker, Johanna (2015) ‘Humanist Computing at the End of the Individual Voice
and the Authoritative Text’, in Patrik Svensson and David Theo Goldberg
(eds.), Between Humanities and the Digital (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), pp.
— (2014) ‘Distributed and Conditional Documents: Conceptualizing
Bibliographical Alterities’, MATLIT: Revista do Programa de Doutoramento em
Materialidades da Literatura 2.1, 11–29.
— (2013) ‘Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface’,
Digital Humanities Quarterly 7.1 [n.p.],
Ede, Lisa, and Andrea A. Lunsford (2001) ‘Collaboration and Concepts of
Authorship’, PMLA 116.2, 354–69.
Emerson, Lori (2008) ‘Materiality, Intentionality, and the Computer-Generated
Poem: Reading Walter Benn Michaels with Erin Moureacute’s Pillage Land’, ESC:
English Studies in Canada 34, 45–69.
— (2003) ‘Digital Poetry as Reflexive Embodiment’, in Markku Eskelinen, Raine
Koskimaa, Loss Pequeño Glazier and John Cayley (eds.), CyberText Yearbook
Foucault, Michel, ‘What Is an Author?’ (1998) in James D. Faubion (ed.),
Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, Volume Two: Aesthetics, Method, and
Epistemology (New York: The New Press).
Gibson, Johanna (2007) Creating Selves: Intellectual Property and the
Narration of Culture (Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Routledge).
— Phillip Johnson and Gaetano Dimita (2015) The Business of Being an Author: A
Survey of Author’s Earnings and Contracts (London: Queen Mary University of
London), [https://orca.cf.ac.uk/72431/1/Final Report - For Web
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Age (New York: Columbia University Press).
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Research Without Borders, Columbia University),
— (2008) Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open
Access Now (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press).
Hayles, N. Katherine (2004) ‘Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of
Media-Specific Analysis’, Poetics Today 25.1, 67–90,
Hughes, Rolf (2005) ‘Orderly Disorder: Post-Human Creativity’, in Proceedings
of the Linköping Electronic Conference (Linköpings universitet: University
Jenkins, Henry, and Owen Gallagher (2008) ‘“What Is Remix Culture?”: An
Interview with Total Recut’s Owen Gallagher’, Confessions of an Aca-Fan,
Johns, Adrian (1998) The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Kember, Sarah (2016) ‘Why Publish?’, Learned Publishing 29, 348–53,
— (2014) ‘Why Write?: Feminism, Publishing and the Politics of Communication’,
New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics 83.1, 99–116.
Kretschmer, M., and P. Hardwick (2007) Authors’ Earnings from Copyright and
Non-Copyright Sources : A Survey of 25,000 British and German Writers (Poole,
UK: CIPPM/ALCS Bournemouth University),
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Economy (New York: Penguin Press).
Lovink, Geert, and Ned Rossiter (eds.) (2007) MyCreativity Reader: A Critique
of Creative Industries (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures),
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(Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press).
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Evaluated.’, Impact of Social Sciences [n.p.],
Mol, Annemarie (2008) The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient
Choice, 1st ed. (London and New York: Routledge).
Montfort, Nick (2003) ‘The Coding and Execution of the Author’, in Markku
Eskelinen, Raine Kosimaa, Loss Pequeño Glazier and John Cayley (eds.),
CyberText Yearbook 2002–2003, 2003, 201–17, , pp. 201–17.
Moore, Samuel A. (2017) ‘A Genealogy of Open Access: Negotiations between
Openness and Access to Research’, Revue Française des Sciences de
l’information et de la Communication 11,
Munster, Anna (2016) ‘Techno-Animalities — the Case of the Monkey Selfie’
(presented at the Goldsmiths University, London),
Navas, Eduardo (2012) Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (Vienna and New
Parikka, Jussi, and Mercedes Bunz (11 July 2014) ‘A Mini-Interview: Mercedes
Bunz Explains Meson Press’, Machinology,
Richards, Victoria (7 January 2016) ‘Monkey Selfie: Judge Rules Macaque Who
Took Grinning Photograph of Himself “Cannot Own Copyright”’, The Independent,
Robbins, Sarah (2003) ‘Distributed Authorship: A Feminist Case-Study Framework
for Studying Intellectual Property’, College English 66.2, 155–71,
Rose, Mark (1993) Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press).
Spinosa, Dani (14 May 2014) ‘“My Line (Article) Has Sighed”: Authorial
Subjectivity and Technology’, Generic Pronoun,
Star, Susan Leigh (1991) ‘The Sociology of the Invisible: The Primacy of Work
in the Writings of Anselm Strauss’, in Anselm Leonard Strauss and David R.
Maines (eds.), Social Organization and Social Process: Essays in Honor of
Anselm Strauss (New York: A. de Grutyer).
* * *
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-152-backlink) The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting
Society is a [British](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom)
membership organisation for writers, established in 1977 with over 87,000
members, focused on protecting and promoting authors’ rights. ALCS collects
and pays out money due to members for secondary uses of their work (copying,
broadcasting, recording etc.).
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-151-backlink) This survey was an update of an earlier
survey conducted in 2006 by the Centre of Intellectual Property Policy and
Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-150-backlink) ‘New Research into Authors’ Earnings
Released’, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, 2014,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-149-backlink) Johanna Gibson, Phillip Johnson, and
Gaetano Dimita, The Business of Being an Author: A Survey of Author’s Earnings
and Contracts (London: Queen Mary University of London, 2015), p. 9,
[https://orca.cf.ac.uk/72431/1/Final Report - For Web Publication.pdf
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-148-backlink) ALCS, Press Release. What Are Words Worth
Now? Not Enough, 8 July 2014,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-147-backlink) Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The Business
of Being an Author, p. 35.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-146-backlink) M. Kretschmer and P. Hardwick, Authors’
Earnings from Copyright and Non-Copyright Sources: A Survey of 25,000 British
and German Writers (Poole: CIPPM/ALCS Bournemouth University, 2007), p. 3,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-145-backlink) ALCS, Press Release, 8 July 2014,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-144-backlink) Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The Business
of Being an Author, p. 35.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-142-backlink) In the survey, three questions that
focus on various sources of remuneration do list digital publishing and/or
online uses as an option (questions 8, 11, and 15). Yet the data tables
provided in the appendix to the report do not provide the findings for
questions 11 and 15 nor do they differentiate according to type of media for
other tables related to remuneration. The only data table we find in the
report related to digital publishing is table 3.3, which lists ‘Earnings
ranked (1 to 7) in relation to categories of work’, where digital publishing
ranks third after books and magazines/periodicals, but before newspapers,
audio/audio-visual productions and theatre. This lack of focus on the effect
of digital publishing on writers’ incomes, for a survey that is ‘the first to
capture the impact of the digital revolution on writers’ working lives’, is
quite remarkable. Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The Business of Being an
Author, Appendix 2.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-141-backlink) Ibid., p. 35.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-139-backlink) Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter (eds.),
MyCreativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries (Amsterdam: Institute
of Network Cultures, 2007), p. 14,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-137-backlink) Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos:
Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), p. 31.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-136-backlink) Therefore Lovink and Rossiter make a
plea to, ‘redefine creative industries outside of IP generation’. Lovink and
Rossiter, MyCreativity Reader, p. 14.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-135-backlink) Next to earnings made from writing more
in general, the survey on various occasions asks questions about earnings
arising from specific categories of works and related to the amount of works
exploited (published/broadcast) during certain periods. Gibson, Johnson, and
Dimita, The Business of Being an Author, Appendix 2.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-134-backlink) Roger Chartier, The Order of Books:
Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe Between the 14th and 18th Centuries,
1st ed. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Lisa Ede and Andrea A.
Lunsford, ‘Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship’, PMLA 116.2 (2001),
354–69; Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the
Making (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Jerome J. McGann, A
Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Charlottesville, VA, University of
Virginia Press, 1992); Sarah Robbins, ‘Distributed Authorship: A Feminist
Case-Study Framework for Studying Intellectual Property’, College English 66.2
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-133-backlink) The ALCS survey addresses this problem,
of course, and tries to lobby on behalf of its authors for fair contracts with
publishers and intermediaries. That said, the survey findings show that only
42% of writers always retain their copyright. Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The
Business of Being an Author, p. 12.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-132-backlink) Michel Foucault, ‘What Is an Author?’,
in James D. Faubion (ed.), Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, Volume Two:
Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology (New York: The New Press, 1998), p. 205.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-131-backlink) Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The
Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-130-backlink) Carys J. Craig, Joseph F. Turcotte, and
Rosemary J. Coombe, ‘What’s Feminist About Open Access? A Relational Approach
to Copyright in the Academy’, Feminists@law 1.1 (2011),
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-129-backlink) Ibid., p. 8.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-128-backlink) Ibid., p. 9.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-127-backlink) Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and
Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (New York: Penguin Press, 2008); Eduardo
Navas, Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (Vienna and New York:
Springer, 2012); Henry Jenkins and Owen Gallagher, ‘“What Is Remix Culture?”:
An Interview with Total Recut’s Owen Gallagher’, Confessions of an Aca-Fan,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-126-backlink) Craig, Turcotte, and Coombe, ‘What’s
Feminist About Open Access?, p. 27.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-125-backlink) Ibid., p. 14.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-124-backlink) Ibid., p. 26.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-123-backlink) Janneke Adema, ‘Open Access’, in
Critical Keywords for the Digital Humanities (Lueneburg: Centre for Digital
Cultures (CDC), 2014), ; Janneke Adema,
‘Embracing Messiness’, LSE Impact of Social Sciences, 2014,
adema-pdsc14/>; Gary Hall, Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or
Why We Need Open Access Now (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press,
2008), p. 197; Sarah Kember, ‘Why Write?: Feminism, Publishing and the
Politics of Communication’, New Formations: A Journal of
Culture/Theory/Politics 83.1 (2014), 99–116; Samuel A. Moore, ‘A Genealogy of
Open Access: Negotiations between Openness and Access to Research’, Revue
Française des Sciences de l’information et de la Communication, 2017,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-122-backlink) Florian Cramer, Anti-Media: Ephemera on
Speculative Arts (Rotterdam and New York: nai010 publishers, 2013).
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-121-backlink) Especially within humanities publishing
there is a reluctance to allow derivative uses of one’s work in an open access
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-120-backlink) In 2015 the Radical Open Access
Conference took place at Coventry University, which brought together a large
array of presses and publishing initiatives (often academic-led) in support of
an ‘alternative’ vision of open access and scholarly communication.
Participants in this conference subsequently formed the loosely allied Radical
Open Access Collective: [radicaloa.co.uk](https://radicaloa.co.uk/). As the
conference concept outlines, radical open access entails ‘a vision of open
access that is characterised by a spirit of on-going creative experimentation,
and a willingness to subject some of our most established scholarly
communication and publishing practices, together with the institutions that
sustain them (the library, publishing house etc.), to rigorous critique.
Included in the latter will be the asking of important questions about our
notions of authorship, authority, originality, quality, credibility,
sustainability, intellectual property, fixity and the book — questions that
lie at the heart of what scholarship is and what the university can be in the
21st century’. Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, ‘The Political Nature of the Book:
On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’, New Formations 78.1 (2013),
138–56, ; Janneke Adema and Samuel
Moore, ‘Collectivity and Collaboration: Imagining New Forms of Communality to
Create Resilience In Scholar-Led Publishing’, Insights 31.3 (2018), ; Gary Hall, ‘Radical Open Access in the
Humanities’ (presented at the Research Without Borders, Columbia University,
humanities/>; Janneke Adema, ‘Knowledge Production Beyond The Book? Performing
the Scholarly Monograph in Contemporary Digital Culture’ (PhD dissertation,
Coventry University, 2015),
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-119-backlink) Julien McHardy, ‘Why Books Matter: There
Is Value in What Cannot Be Evaluated’, Impact of Social Sciences, 2014, n.p.,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-118-backlink) Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe
Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham,
N.C. and London: Duke University Press, 2007).
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-117-backlink) Annemarie Mol, The Logic of Care: Health
and the Problem of Patient Choice, 1st ed. (London and New York: Routledge,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-116-backlink) Sebastian Abrahamsson and others,
‘Mattering Press: New Forms of Care for STS Books’, The EASST Review 32.4
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-113-backlink) Susan Leigh Star, ‘The Sociology of the
Invisible: The Primacy of Work in the Writings of Anselm Strauss’, in Anselm
Leonard Strauss and David R. Maines (eds.), Social Organization and Social
Process: Essays in Honor of Anselm Strauss (New York: A. de Gruyter, 1991).
Mattering Press is not alone in exploring an ethics of care in relation to
(academic) publishing. Sarah Kember, director of Goldsmiths Press is also
adamant in her desire to make the underlying processes of publishing (i.e.
peer review, citation practices) more transparent and accountable Sarah
Kember, ‘Why Publish?’, Learned Publishing 29 (2016), 348–53, . Mercedes Bunz, one of the editors running
Meson Press, argues that a sociology of the invisible would incorporate
‘infrastructure work’, the work of accounting for, and literally crediting
everybody involved in producing a book: ‘A book isn’t just a product that
starts a dialogue between author and reader. It is accompanied by lots of
other academic conversations — peer review, co-authors, copy editors — and
these conversations deserve to be taken more serious’. Jussi Parikka and
Mercedes Bunz, ‘A Mini-Interview: Mercedes Bunz Explains Meson Press’,
mercedes-bunz-explains-meson-press/>. For Open Humanities Press authorship is
collaborative and even often anonymous: for example, they are experimenting
with research published in wikis to further complicate the focus on single
authorship and a static marketable book object within academia (see their
living and liquid books series).
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-112-backlink) Lori Emerson, ‘Digital Poetry as
Reflexive Embodiment’, in Markku Eskelinen, Raine Koskimaa, Loss Pequeño
Glazier and John Cayley (eds.), CyberText Yearbook 2002–2003, 2003, 88–106,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-111-backlink) Dani Spinosa, ‘“My Line (Article) Has
Sighed”: Authorial Subjectivity and Technology’, Generic Pronoun, 2014,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-110-backlink) Spinosa, ‘My Line (Article) Has Sighed’.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-109-backlink) Emerson, ‘Digital Poetry as Reflexive
Embodiment’, p. 89.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-108-backlink) Rolf Hughes, ‘Orderly Disorder: Post-
Human Creativity’, in Proceedings of the Linköping Electronic Conference
(Linköpings universitet: University Electronic Press, 2005).
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-107-backlink) N. Katherine Hayles, ‘Print Is Flat,
Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis’, Poetics Today 25.1
(2004), 67–90, ; Johanna Drucker,
‘Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface’, Digital
Humanities Quarterly 7.1 (2013), ; Johanna
Drucker, ‘Distributed and Conditional Documents: Conceptualizing
Bibliographical Alterities’, MATLIT: Revista do Programa de Doutoramento em
Materialidades da Literatura 2.1 (2014), 11–29.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-106-backlink) Nick Montfort, ‘The Coding and Execution
of the Author’, in Markku Eskelinen, Raine Kosimaa, Loss Pequeño Glazier and
John Cayley (eds.), CyberText Yearbook 2002–2003, 2003, 201–17 (p. 201),
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-105-backlink) Montfort, ‘The Coding and Execution of
the Author’, p. 202.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-104-backlink) Lori Emerson, ‘Materiality,
Intentionality, and the Computer-Generated Poem: Reading Walter Benn Michaels
with Erin Moureacute’s Pillage Land’, ESC: English Studies in Canada 34
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-103-backlink) Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Johanna Drucker, ‘Humanist
Computing at the End of the Individual Voice and the Authoritative Text’, in
Patrik Svensson and David Theo Goldberg (eds.), Between Humanities and the
Digital (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), pp. 83–94.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-102-backlink) We have to take into consideration here
that print-based cultural products were never fixed or static; the dominant
discourses constructed around them just perceive them to be so.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-101-backlink) Craig, Turcotte, and Coombe, ‘What’s
Feminist About Open Access?’, p. 2.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-099-backlink) Johanna Gibson, Creating Selves:
Intellectual Property and the Narration of Culture (Aldershot, UK, and
Burlington: Routledge, 2007), p. 7.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-098-backlink) Gibson, Creating Selves, p. 7.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-096-backlink) Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing:
Managing Language in the Digital Age (New York: Columbia University Press,
2011), p. 227.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-095-backlink) Ibid., p. 15.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-094-backlink) Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing, p. 81.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-092-backlink) It is worth emphasising that what
Goldsmith perceives as ‘uncreative’ notions of writing (including
appropriation, pastiche, and copying), have a prehistory that can be traced
back to antiquity (thanks go out to this chapter’s reviewer for pointing this
out). One example of this, which uses the method of cutting and pasting —
something I have outlined more in depth elsewhere — concerns the early modern
commonplace book. Commonplacing as ‘a method or approach to reading and
writing involved the gathering and repurposing of meaningful quotes, passages
or other clippings from published books by copying and/or pasting them into a
blank book.’ Janneke Adema, ‘Cut-Up’, in Eduardo Navas (ed.), Keywords in
Remix Studies (New York and London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 104–14,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-091-backlink) Gibson, Creating Selves, p. 27.
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-090-backlink) For example, animals cannot own
copyright. See the case of Naruto, the macaque monkey that took a ‘selfie’
photograph of itself. Victoria Richards, ‘Monkey Selfie: Judge Rules Macaque
Who Took Grinning Photograph of Himself “Cannot Own Copyright”’, The
Independent, 7 January 2016,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-089-backlink) Anna Munster, ‘Techno-Animalities — the
Case of the Monkey Selfie’ (presented at the Goldsmiths University, London,
(ch3.xhtml#footnote-088-backlink) Sarah Kember, ‘Why Write?: Feminism,
Publishing and the Politics of Communication’, New Formations: A Journal of
Culture/Theory/Politics 83.1 (2014), 99–116.
_A talk given at the [Shadow Libraries](http://www.sgt.gr/eng/SPG2096/)
symposium held at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in
[Athens](/Athens "Athens"), 17 March 2018. Moderated by [Kenneth
Goldsmith](/Kenneth_Goldsmith "Kenneth Goldsmith") (UbuWeb) and bringing
together [Dusan Barok](/Dusan_Barok "Dusan Barok") (Monoskop), [Marcell
Mars](/Marcell_Mars "Marcell Mars") (Public Library), [Peter
Sunde](/Peter_Sunde "Peter Sunde") (The Pirate Bay), [Vicki
Bennett](/Vicki_Bennett "Vicki Bennett") (People Like Us), [Cornelia
Sollfrank](/Cornelia_Sollfrank "Cornelia Sollfrank") (Giving What You Don't
Have), and Prodromos Tsiavos, the event was part of the _[Shadow Libraries:
UbuWeb in Athens](http://www.sgt.gr/eng/SPG2018/) _programme organised by [Ilan
Manouach](/Ilan_Manouach "Ilan Manouach"), Kenneth Goldsmith and the Onassis
This is the first time that I was asked to talk about Monoskop as a _shadow
What are shadow libraries?
[Lawrence Liang](/Lawrence_Liang "Lawrence Liang") wrote a think piece for _e-
flux_ a couple of years ago,
in response to the closure of Library.nu, a digital library that had operated
from 2004, first as Ebooksclub, later as Gigapedia.
He wrote that:
[![Liang Lawrence 2012 Shadow
In the essay, he moves between identifying Library.nu as digital Alexandria
and as its shadow.
In this account, even large libraries exist in the shadows cast by their
There’s a lineage, there’s a tradition.
Almost everyone and every institution has a library, small or large.
They’re not necessarily Alexandrias, but they strive to stay relevant.
Take the University of Amsterdam where I now work.
University libraries are large, but they’re hardly _large enough_.
The publishing market is so huge that you simply can’t keep up with all the
niche little disciplines.
So either you have to wait days or weeks for a missing book to be ordered
Or you have some EBSCO ebooks.
And most of the time if you’re searching for a book title in the catalogue,
all you get are its reviews in various journals the library subscribes to.
So my colleagues keep asking me.
Dušan, where do I find this or that book?
You need to scan through dozens of texts, check one page in that book, table
of contents of another book, read what that paper is about.
[![Arts humanities and social sciences digital libraries
Or scrapes it from somewhere, since most books today are born digital and live
their digital lives.
Digital libraries need to be creative.
They don’t just preserve and circulate books.
[![Hirsal Josef Groegerova Bohumila eds Slovo pismo akce hlas
They engage in extending print runs, making new editions, readily
reproducible, unlimited editions.
[![Hirsal Josef Groegerova Bohumila eds Slovo pismo akce hlas
This one comes with something extra. Isn’t this beautiful? You can read along
In this case we know these annotations come from the Slovak avant-garde visual
poet and composer [Milan Adamciak](/Milan_Adamciak "Milan Adamciak").
[![Milan Adamciak John Cage in Bratislava 1992
...standing in the middle.
A couple of pages later...
[![Hirsal Josef Groegerova Bohumila eds Slovo pismo akce hlas
...you can clearly see how he found out about a book containing one million
random digits [see note 24 on the image]. The strangest book.
[![Million Random Digits with 100000 Normal Deviates
He was still alive when we put it up on Monoskop, and could experience it.
Digital libraries may seem like virtual, grey places, nonplaces.
But these little chance encounters happen all the time there.
There are touches. There are traces. There are many hands involved, visible
They join writers’ hands and help creating new, unlimited editions.
They may be off Google, but for many, especially younger generation these are
the places to go to learn, to share.
Rather than in a shadow, they are out in the open, in plain sight.
[![Hawking 2017 on free access to
This made rounds last year.
As scholars, as authors, we have reasons to have our works freely accessible
We do it for feedback, for invites to lecture, for citations.
So when after long two, three, four, five years I have my manuscript ready,
where will I go?
Will I go to an established publisher or an open access press?
Will I send it to MIT Press or Open Humanities Press?
Traditional publishers have better distribution, and they often have a strong
It’s often about career moves and bios, plans A’s and plan B’s.
There are no easy answers, but one can always be a little inventive.
In the end, one should not feel guilty for publishing with MIT Press.
But at the same time, one should neither feel guilty for scanning and sharing
such a book with others.
You know, there’s fighting, there are court cases.
[Aaaaarg](/Aaaaarg "Aaaaarg"), a digital library run by our dear friend [Sean
Dockray](/Sean_Dockray "Sean Dockray"), is facing a Canadian publisher.
Open Library is now facing the Authors Guild for lending scanned books
deaccessioned from libraries.
They need our help, our support.
But collisions of interests can be productive.
This is what our beloved _Cabinet_ magazine did when they found their PDFs
They converted all their articles into HTML and put them online.
The most beautiful takedown request we have ever received.
[![The Writings of Swartz Aaron
So what is at stake? What are these digital books?
They are poor versions of print books.
They come with no binding, no paper, no weight.
They come as PDFs, EPUBs, JPEGs in online readers, they come as HTML.
By the way, HTML is great, you can search it, copy, save it, it’s lightweight,
it’s supported by all browsers, footnotes too, you can adapt its layout
That’s completely fine for a researcher.
As a researcher, you just need source code:
you need plain text, page numbers, images, working footnotes, relevant data
_Data and code_ as well:
this is where online companions to print books come in,
you want to publish your research material,
your interviews, spreadsheets, software you made.
Here we distinguish between researchers and readers.
As _readers_ we will always build our beautiful libraries at home, and
filled with books and... and external harddrives.
There may be _no contradiction_ between the existence of a print book in
stores and the existence of its free digital version.
So what we’ve been asking for is access, basic access. The access to culture
and knowledge for research, educational, noncommercial purposes. A low budget,
poor bandwidth access. Access to badly OCR’d ebooks with grainy images. Access
to culture and knowledge _light_.
_Written on 16-17 March 2018 in Athens and Amsterdam. Published online on 21