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The Vanishing “I” – Blaise Cronin Talk in London about Authorship

2013-03-22
Blaise presenting

On March 17, 2013, SLIS Rudy Professor of Information Science, Blaise Cronin presented an invited talk at the School of Informatics, City University in London, England.

The talk abstract is included here:

• The Vanishing “I”
How Collaborative Practices in Science and in Art are Changing our Conception of Authorship

The lone scholar is something of an endangered species. In many disciplines co-authorship is the norm; sole authorship an anachronism. Such is the complexity, scale, capital intensity and competitiveness of much contemporary science, that collaboration, both formal and informal, has become the defining modus operandi. Scholarly papers routinely have dozens, scores, even hundreds of co-authors, which raises a number of questions: What exactly does it mean to be an author? How should credit be allocated to the various contributors? Who, ultimately, takes responsibility for the results being reported?

As in Big Science, so in Big Art—up to a point. The commonly held idea of an artist as being wholly and exclusively responsible for an artwork does not bear close scrutiny. There is a long tradition of delegation and co-production in the art world, from the Renaissance to the present day. Sometimes the hand of the master may be little in evidence, or completely absent. Today, conception matters as much as execution. Unlike in science, the contributions of the artist’s/artists’ nameless assistants are either erased or under-acknowledged. This raises a number of questions: What does it mean to be an artist? How should credit be allocated to co-workers, be they peers or minions? How do we deal with attribution issues?

Posted March 22, 2013

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