The following is the abstract to JD Richter’s MA Thesis, written at the University at Buffalo: “Birth of the Authors: Digital Collaboration, Electrate Invention and the Dissenting Voice.”
Rhetorical invention occurring in the sphere of the social web increasingly takes on the form of collaborators working in tandem with one another to compose and construct. Poststructural theorists traced notions of authorship through Platonic and modernist histories to contemporary, ecologically-informed conceptions that prove the Romantic myth of the solitary inventor acting in isolation to be a manufactured farce. Locating 21st century authorship between loci of Gregory Ulmer’s proposition of electracy as a successor to literacy and Roland Barthes’ conceptual Death of the Author, this thesis argues web invention to be an inherently collaborative exercise characterized by ecological, socially-conscious procedures and behaviors.
Web invention refuses to conform to the procedures of other mediums, developing its own distinct and unique practices. New technologies offer new avenues for cultural expression that detach themselves from traditional domains and instead take on new, unpredictable lives of their own. A practice of particular relevancy within electrate invention is moderation, an agreement between collaborators wherein the construction of more-desirable webtexts is achieved through community censorship, surveillance and content policing.
Similarly, social web spaces extend political action into realms of online sharing, liking, commenting, remixing, and profile representation. Collaboratively-authored webtexts express ideological values across multi-layered procedures, practices and behaviors, all the while conditioning users to contribute content, emotions and reactions that are politically and socially charged.
As interactions typical of the social web demonstrate, the assemblage forged between humans and nonhuman tools makes collaboration essential for the construction of webtexts, altering rhetorical invention and imposing a newfound emphasis on social ecologies within the invention process.