8/5/11

Marshall McLuhan Authorship Transmission

A ditto, ditto device.
A ditto, ditto device.
"Authorship"—in the sense we know it today, indi-
vidual intellectual effort related to the book as an
economic commodity—was practically unknown
before the advent of print technology. Medieval
scholars were indifferent to the precise identity
of the "books" they studied. In turn, they rarely
signed even what was clearly their own. They
were a humble service organization. Procuring
texts was often a very tedious and time-consuming
task. Many small texts were transmitted into vol-
umes of miscellaneous content, very much like
"jottings" in a scrapbook, and, in this transmission,
authorship was often lost.

The invention of printing did away with anonymity,
fostering ideas of literary fame and the habit of
considering intellectual effort as private property.
Mechanical multiples of the same text created a
public—a reading public. The rising consumer-
oriented culture became concerned with labels of
authenticity and protection against theft and piracy.
The idea of copyright—"the exclusive right to re-
produce, publish, and sell the matter and form of
a literary or artistic work"—was born.

Xerography—every man's brain-picker—heralds the
times of instant publishing. Anybody can now be-
come both author and publisher. Take any books
on any subject and custom-make your own book
by simply xeroxing a chapter from this one, a
chapter from that one—instant steal!

As new technologies come into play, people are
less and less convinced of the importance of self-
expression. Teamwork succeeds private effort.

A ditto, ditto device.
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A ditto, ditto device.
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A ditto, ditto device.
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