Wikipedia is often discussed as the first of its kind: the first massively
collaborative, Web-based encyclopedia that belongs to the public domain.
While it’s true that wiki technology enables large-scale, distributed
collaborations in revolutionary ways, the concept of a collaborative
encyclopedia is not new, and neither is the idea that private ownership
might not apply to such documents. More than 275 years ago, in the
preface to the 1728 edition of his Cyclopædia, Ephraim Chambers mused
on the intensely collaborative nature of the volumes he was about to
publish. His thoughts were remarkably similar to contemporary
intellectual property arguments for Wikipedia, and while the composition
processes involved in producing these texts are influenced by the available
technologies, they are also unexpectedly similar.
This dissertation examines issues of authorial agency in these two texts
and shows that the “Author Construct” is not static across eras, genres, or
textual technologies. In contrast to traditional considerations of the poetic
author, the encyclopedic author demonstrates a different form of authorial
agency that operates within strict genre conventions and does not place a
premium on originality. This and related variations challenge
contemporary ideas concerning the divide between print and digital
authorship as well as the notion that new media intellectual property
arguments are without historical precedent.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2009. Major: Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication. Advisors: Dr. Laura J. Gurak and Dr. John Logie. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 271 pages. Ill (some col.)
Kennedy, Krista A..
Textual curators and writing machines: authorial agency in encyclopedias, print to digital..
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