How and why do we articulate discourses? What are the possible implications of putting those discourses into circulation today? How do we deal with connective apparatuses that transform social interaction and knowledge into modes of production? One approach could be to rethink the way language is used, debates articulated and systems of relations produced and eventually exploited. If we then align the question of operation and circulation of discourses with the one of contemporary forms of authorship, what might need to be asked is: what kind of knowledge do we really possess about this (sometimes) unquestioned language, which we use to communicate on a daily basis? Although we are not strictly interested in algorithms, accessibility of knowledge and forms of authorship mainly depend today on access to data, from which we appropriate, compose and recombine information endlessly. Even when the way of generating this knowledge is questioned, we have the feeling that the basic grammar remains prevalently obscure to most of us. When Joseph K. in Kafka’s The Trial. discovered that he knew nothing about courts—their structures and rituals—he realized that his ignorance wouldn’t have helped him succeed in demonstrating his innocence against the inexplicable reasons for that trial. He needed to learn the grammar of the game—for ignoring the court’s rules was equal to pre-emptively admit ones guilt and remaining entrapped in the suffocating chambers of that system. Knowing how certain discourses function might at least help in becoming the author of one’s own destiny, instead of becoming the witness of our own trial.
This third issue of …ment looks at forms of authorship—both individual and collective—as they emerge in a cultural context where the value of knowledge is created by the circulation and distribution of information. Whatever the content, in our digital culture too often discourses are granted the status of ‘valuable information’ as long as the audience increases: if this is not the case, then thoughts and ideas can easily be discharged as having no specific value. As a result, our society accumulates information, but as the market logic of scarcity is applied what can be read or downloaded is only a portion of what is really available. Moreover, abundance is limited by copyright policies, ownership, data protection and other forms of regulation. So what happens to all the material that is left behind? What kind of agency does the author possess on the circulation of content? And what kind of responsibility, if any at all? Those questions bring us to consider the role of appropriation, its potentialities and limitations. On the one hand, as Foucault suggested, appropriation can be seen as a limitation to the potentiality of the author (as it literally goes on to define forms of property and legal actions as punishments against the violation of the right to ownership). By reducing the author to the person, it reduces the active potential of the author as generator of discourse. On the other hand, appropriation could be regarded as a process of wild accumulation. One where the overabundance of available knowledge produces a surplus that does not need to be absorbed by the market, but that flourishes and proliferates uncontrolled. Another form of consumption that might lead us—the author and the public—to think of the advantages of an economy of abundance, where things are simply available to anyone, at any time and in every place. But then again, when imagining how accumulation, abundance and re-appropriation act as emancipatory factors in the hands of the author—regaining political agency in the world he or she inhabits—it is crucial to understand the way such abundance is constructed and distributed in a given society. After all, accumulation is not such a bad thing, is it? And appropriation can become a good strategy of turning upside down the logic of semiotic production, but on the condition that we understand the language and mechanisms regulating such appropriation.
From this perspective, this issue of …ment attempts to understand how today, authors from observers of facts and producers of imaginary worlds become conductors of new linguistic settings, ways of thinking of and acting on reality. By means of language and actions, the author is an active agent that facilitates another kind of consciousness and another sensibility. The question is also how these worlds are generated and what are the reasons for creating and developing them.
Authorship as a political space of reflection and action, in which joint efforts towards common goals and their possible results are simultaneously distributed or appropriated, represent to us a way of thinking about the mechanisms and politics of cultural production today. What it means to work, think or act both as individuals and together, what level of productive interaction we can hope to reach between the minority and the majority, the individual and the collective, the social and the political or the author and the public. We aim to reflect on authorship as a place of encounter. A space from which—as Giorgio Agamben suggests—a subjectivity is created where the being encounters language and puts itself into play without reserve, affirming the impossibility of reducing its presence to the gesture of the author.
An encounter, between the author and the public, that gives shape to a new form of life.