In a day and age where we all have the means to publish our work – whether it be on social media, having out own website, or using self-publishing sites; can we all be authors? Do we all have works that can be considered ‘works’?
The lines have become blurred due to this natural phenomeneon that has occured due to the major developments in technology over the past few decades. We are all publishing. We are writing, we are taking pictures, we are producing gifs and making our own videos. Thus, being an author is not just about having recorded something using text and producing a book. Works are of different formats and are just as important and valuable as a work in the form of a book.
For example, in one of my lectures, Aquiles Alencar-Brayner from the British Library spoke about a project in which they were collecting certain influential people’s personal belongings, such as laptops and other devices they have used to record their work and make notes. This means that every piece of material produced by those people are considered important, valuable and relevant.
Thus, looking to the future and using the example of youtubers, we would be collecting material in all different formats, hoping to preserve their memory and the time in which they lived. This is because some have even written books and some make TV appearances, as well as being on other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. If the person is considered important enough, we would be attemping to collect everything about them.
But what justifies seeing someone as more important and valuable enough to represent a period in time?
When there were very limited ways of publishing a piece of work, we could put authority in the publishing companies or the magazine a work was serialised in. We could assess a journal based on it’s standing within it’s community and assign value and relevance.
We probably didn’t think too much about who were the authors of our TV shows or radio programs. We thought about the actors and radio stars; but as authors? Maybe if they had written a book. But everyone is writing a book now. Footballers, TV personalities, YouTube personalities and every Tom, Dick and Harriet.
Nevertheless, even then, there wasn’t a value for which a person could be considered more of an ‘author’ than another. We have seen throughout history that an ‘author’ has become more valuable and considered as influential, after years, even hundreds of years, have gone by. At that point, we want to collect everything they have written and produced, to understand their works in the context of all their works and to understand the author.
What were they thinking when they were writing? Does their work represent the time they lived in? Does their work embody a part of the author?
We see it with Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth and Dickens. Some were not as popular as they are today, but they are definitely considered influential today and are even studied in schools as a part of the syllabus.
We consider these people as authors, because they have come to mean something as an entity. Not just a writer. Thus, assigning the title author, means that they have become their work. Their names mean something in relation to their work.
This is the same of Picasso, Rembrandt and van Gogh. Even, Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart. These ‘beings’ are their works because their works mean something. And this is not just in the art community or the music community. Whether we listen to classical music or are knowledgeable in art or not, we all know who these people are and what they mean. They have been given a ‘stamp of approval’ (as said by a peer of mine) and thus considered authors.
Does that mean we can’t all be considered authors?
Probably. Popularity wins, but not in the sense of it’s popularity today. It is those individuals that stand the test of time who become authors. They are considered authors of a movement: a new way of thinking, a new way of understanding. They are usually misunderstood in their own time (not alwaysd) and so seem to transcend into a different state of being. Being ‘ahead of their time’ is a common conception of these ‘authors’.
There are many authors out there. But just because you are producing works, does not make you an author as I understand an author to be. Though my understanding of an author may not be what you would consider an author.