Entries in authenticity (32)


Win a copy of The Authenticity Hoax

Time for a contest, I think. Inspired by Authentic Dining Week -- and especially by the use of the prefix "pre" as the definitive marker of the authentic -- I'm asking readers to send me authenticity-items that best exemplify or reflect the themes in the book. It can be from any realm of the culture -- art, music, politics, teh Internets -- and it can be on any of the main aspects of the authenticity hoax, viz: conspicuous authenticity, dopey nostalgia, reactionary politics, you name it. Send pictures, links, quotations, stories, anecdotes or whatever to me: jandrewpotter at gmail.com

I'll post the best entries here and give out a few books to the best ones.



Death of the Author 2.0

The principal consequence of what I (and many others) have called "Culture 2.0" is that it made the old sharp distinctions between producers and consumers of culture more or less obsolete. The fight over the fundamental question -- who does the culture belong too, anyway? -- is what has motivated what has broadly been called the "copyright wars," but which we would rightly have called "the culture wars", if that excellent term hadn't been used to describe a much stupider conflict.

The fight has taken place on many levels, from the strictly legal to the moral to the outright metaphysical. And while I've been fairly sympathetic over the years to the copyleft/creative commons side of the argument, many of its more strident advocates have gone too far, and committed serious category mistakes.

First, they have gone too far by often arguing that copyright law is itself illegitimate. But as Lawrence Lessig liked to remind people, the whole creative commons idea was underwritten by strong copyright protections for creators (i.e. you can only permit the expansive use of something you already own). Second, the blurring of the old distinctions has been used to justify a great deal of straight cultural theft, on the grounds that "no one ever really creates anything anyway". Call it Death of the Author 2.0.

In an essay on the Barnes and Noble website, Andrew Keen (author of a hilariously written corrective to the prevailing net populism, The Cult of the Amateur) takes on a pair of  plagiarists, one of whom -- in classic Squid and the Whale style -- justifies her theft on the grounds that it's all about authenticity. The culprit this time is Helene Hegemann, who responded by saying: "There's no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,"

This is bullshit on stilts, as philosophers used to say. Keen takes the reasoning apart, noting that the sort of "authenticity" these authors champion has the effect of driving  "us deeper into ourselves, thereby isolating us from one another. Rather than a radical subversion of tradition, the doubt they champion is not a hunger for reality, but a hunger for their own reflection in every window looking out upon the world."



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