|Collaborative Literary Creation and Control: A Socio-Historic, Technological and Legal Analysis|
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There is no denying that collaboration is persistent, but a handful of citations might have demonstrated this point as effectively as this essay. There is no denying that collaboration is effective, but this also would have been well served will less effort and spilled ink. The real conclusion, one that has been echoed throughout this piece by the accumulating evidence I've offered and alluded to in this essay, sits at the interstice of collaborative writing and control: when we give control of literature to individuals, collaboration is less common, less meaningful, and less effective.
Given the evidence in this essay, restating this conclusion seems almost unnecessary. Yet, it remains absolutely essential; in the dominant modes of literary criticism and production, it is almost wholly ignored. History has shown that the importance and power of collaborative creation is one of the most powerful mechanisms for the creation, organization and dissemination of knowledge. The dominance of the Romantic notion of authorship has forced us to ignore both the importance and power of collaborative creation and the effect that this type of ownership has on collaborative models. We need not ignore the power that ownership and individualized control bring to the table, but we should not dismiss collaborative work because it's incompatible with the ideology that lets us control, and amass fortunes, from our ideas and from those of others.
It is established that authorship reflects ownership. In today's literary world, one where collaboration is growing in its use and influence, ownership—at least as defined by copyright—does not rest with the creator or creators of the work but with the name or names in the byline. There is only room for one—maybe two—individuals in this space. In response, we push collaborators into our bibliographies, acknowledgment pages, or out of the book altogether; still, perhaps this is unavoidable; perhaps it is even excusable. It becomes inexcusable when we limit the extent of our collaborative enterprises because we are unable to represent the nature of our collaborations in a way that will ensure attribution or compensation for the work. As the last thirty years of Foucault and his supporters have shown, attacking and deconstructing authorship is not enough, we need to deconstruct the systems of control that have enshrined and are perpetuating these conceptions.