What do Jeopardy’s Watson, Hacktivists, Charlie Sheen & Steve Jobs have in common?

They’re all crammed together in this nonsensical reader rant compiled by Robert X. Cringely from InfoWorld:

http://www.infoworld.com/t/misadventures/readers-rant-ibms-watson-apples-sins-hacker-superheroes-and-charlie-sheen-513

Instead of linking directly, I’m forcing you to copy and paste the link as I have not Emailed InfoWorld (The same InfoWorld, Inc. Johnson-Eilola references in The Database and the Essay) requesting hyperlink permission. If you don’t feel like going through all the extra fingerwork to highlight, copy & paste, let me tell you: the article–a loosely strung together collection of reader responses to other articles by Cringely–is an impressive platform for advertisements. Indeed, with content headlined by such gripping characters as Charlie Sheen and Watson, and strung together by  more big-name Non sequiturs than you shake a Lady Ga Ga at, advertisements do become the most cohesive element of this text (at least I understand the point that the Sprint banner in the Sidebar is trying to make).

So, who is the author of this article? Considering that Robert X. Cringely, whose name is on the byline, has strung together excerpts from other texts (blogs, articles, etc.) perhaps, he sees himself more as an assembler (assemblage artiste?) than author. Perhaps, he not only shares authorship with the authors of the texts he quotes from and the highly recognizable names he liberally throws around this piece, but Sprint, Lumenson and the host of other flashing, twitching advertisers that led this reader to his article. Why not Apple, since they are not only mentioned in the article but the makers of the device upon which I am reading and blogging on? I mean, Cringely’s writing must have been influenced by a device similar to mine at some point in time, right? Maybe Google, because they make this “Chrome” browser? Maybe a miner in The Central African Republic who dug the rare elements that allow my computer to connect wirelessly or the factory worker in China who somehow merged that rare metal with cheap tin, silicon and industrial-quality gold to make this magnificent enigma of a tool that I am typing on. Without those folks, none of this information would go anywhere, so don’t they get some credit?

While an increasingly post-modern look at multiple authorship liberates us from the mythology of isolated creative genius, it replaces it with the reality of ownership. The author(s) of this text that I never intended to blog about for 300+ words now, are inconsequential compared to the owner of this text–who is clearly InfoWorld, Inc. Even if Mr. Cringely was a creative genius, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need his permission to link to his article, I need InfoWorld’s. He probably gets paid per article or word (authorship ends with publication). Whereas InfoWorld most likely derives revenue from readership and out-linking insofar as their advertisement payment is data-driven (ownership continues indefinitely). Not to mention, they, not Cringely, would be the ones to file lawsuits for IP violations if anyone were to use their content in a way that violated their terms of use. Neoliberal post-modernism, as Johnson-Eilola suggests, may have helped to deconstruct the image of the lone author, but has replaced it with a singular, legal owner–one with only proprietary rather instead of creative investment in content.

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3 comments on “What do Jeopardy’s Watson, Hacktivists, Charlie Sheen & Steve Jobs have in common?

  1. Haha. Good catch. I totally overlooked, that. But I was suspicious about the middle initial, “X” not to mention the last name CRINGEly… So if there is a real Mr. Cringely behind that trademark, maybe he took some of Johnson-Eilola’s advice keeping up with IP law and incorporated himself to secure rights to his work… or maybe he’s just a product of InfoWorld?

  2. Even if Cringely is just a product of InfoWorld, uugh. Let me know if I am missing something here to admire. I’m thinking of Andy Warhol and Punk artists of the late 1970’s. Sometimes putting something out on the edge & using famous names and images sells. Isn’t that what we want to promote in our culture? Only time will tell if Cringely’s message lasts *smile*.

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