Collaborative Literary Creation and Control

The following analysis is divided into three distinct pieces. The next section, Chapter 2, attempts to serve two important purposes. First, it offers what I call a meta-history of collaboration and control. The chapter begins with an introduction to the history of control as defined through social conceptions of authorship, changes in technology, and the closely related legal systems of intellectual property and copyright. Continuing in this context, the essay presents a broad history of collaborative writing. Through these parallel histories, the essay attempts to offer a glimpse into the troubled history and hostile relationship between the two. The chapter's "meta-history" lies in this intersection.

Second, the chapter attemps to provide a historical foundation and context for the two following chapters. Through this historical approach, it aims to provide historical context on the way control is articulated through popular conceptions of authorship, technology, and law. Through its survey of a diverse range of examples over a long period of time, the essay demonstrates the persistence and power of collaborative work before, during, and after the rise of powerful systems of control that include Romantic authorship, centralized publishing and copyright. This meta-history is one of conflict. The essay aims to help define control as a force that creates environments hostile to meaningful and flourishing collaborative writing.

Chapter 3 attempts to employ the concept of control in the development of a methodology for evaluating different computer-supported collaborative writing (CSCW) technologies. By focusing on the way that technical design choices are reflected in the creation of environments facilitating particular types of control, the essay presents a description of important points of consideration in the evaluation of collaborative writing software, a description of the way that control is articulated at each of these points, and suggestions for an environment promoting more "meaningful" collaboration. The paper demonstrates the usefulness of this methodology through application in a handful of case studies. In the context of the larger project, Chapter 3 uses an analysis of computer code to both gain insight into the concept of control and to apply it to the evaluation of computer software. The methodology for this evaluation outlined in the chapter has already been put into active use by one company researching, writing, and supportive collaborative and participatory computer technologies.

Relying heavily on the foundational work in the previous chapters, Chapter 4 levels a critique at contemporary copyright. The chapter introduces a snapshot of contemporary copyright and describes the way that copyright, as a system of highly individualized control, is poorly suited to the promotion of collaborative work.

Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 are designed to be largely self contained and serve similar purposes within the larger piece. Building upon the introduction of concepts in this chapter, and the contextualization of these concepts in Chapter 2, the final chapters aim to take the idea of control presented in the introductory pieces and apply it toward in fully articulated critiques of existing and important examples of systemic control.