Prompt: Write an essay on a specific topic discussed in class and design a digital artifact where the writing can live in. The digital artifact needs to show some sort of relationship with the writing.
Collaborators: Jessye Holmgren Sidell and Krithika Sathyamurthy

** For this essay, we decided to write a manifesto about auteur. The form that this essay took was disrupting the spreadsheet that was designed by our Professor Denise Gonzales Crisp. This spreadsheet was used everyday of class, so we took that as an opportunity to collaborate and disrupt the system that was already created. We overlayed designed elements onto the spreadsheet, which included GIFs, screenshots, video recordings, and images. **

For too long, there has been an ambiguity, a lack of consensus between “senders” and “receivers” concerning WHO originates an idea. History shows that “the earliest sacred texts were authorless,” their anonymous origin a kind of authentication (Armstrong, 109). But does that loss of origin actually render a text authorless, as Foucault asserts? Or should we (as receivers) look beyond the individual contributor and accept these texts as the first instances of collaborative work?

Let us move along to the eighteenth century. In the fields of science and mathematics, authorship is recognized as an impossible privilege. Science leaves room for “discovered truths,” but no scientist can claim ownership over an existent phenomenon. Literatis, however, are held responsible for their written works. Manuscripts become a form of intellectual property. Indecision is rampant; consensus cannot yet be reached.

Early twentieth century. Constructivists fashion a revolution around designing with people, for the people.Co-founder Aleksandr Rodchenko champions collective utopian creation over the artist as an individual, through an “abstract visual vocabulary” (Armstrong, 52). Proponents  of this  avant-garde view the machine as inspiration, an objectively rational piece of equipment that disregards authored old-world artistic endeavors.

Mid 1960s. Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings purposefully create a space for people  to interact. He removes control from how participants recreate his forms, effectively severing the transmission from sender to receivers (Armstrong, 48). Lewitt “authors” experience through instruction, but allows participation to transform the way the work is perceived. And that perception is ambiguous. Likewise, Bruno Munari’s influential exhibition, Arte Programmata challenges viewers’ sense of perception. Early computers are “not simply...new media for making art, but platforms for radically altering what it means to be a participant in an increasingly mediated and networked world” (Caplan, 2017). Munari encourages “open” interaction through responsive programmed art, which then spawns an open-source mentality.

1980s. We must now raise the question: is stylistic signature a strong enough indicator of authorial ownership? April Greiman’s work is a collage of chaos from which she pulls patterns to craft orderly systems - an instantly recognizable stylistic signature (Armstrong, 62-63). But does her developed aesthetic through self-motivated exploration make her an “author”?

Now. Where do we (both the senders and receivers) fall on this ambiguous question of authorship?  

We (the AUTEURS) bare witness to this historical progression. But this is not enough. We (the AUTEURS) have seen the back-and-forth between authentication and anonymity, between individual conception and collaborative production.  still, no consensus … .

We (the AUTEURS) want/ demand/ aim/ to completely separate our design from its direct form, its implied and perceived meaning, and the very “author-ity of its origin” (Rock, 110). We draw from the inclusive spirit of the Constructivists, but reject their unrealistic utopian ideals. We embrace collaborative efforts and the open-source mentality of Lewitt and Munari. We give validation to the individual by showing her contribution to communal work. We ensure that ownership is distributed to each and every participant over the course of a project. We recognize open-source as our tool to build conversation and community.

By creating this movement, we promote inclusivity. Our designs exist in a fluid realm, where any who are wanting to contribute may do so, regardless of cultural, linguistic , professional, and corporate barriers. No one’s voice is stronger than another, because everyone is given equal autonomy - the complete freedom to build and to destroy. Our designs are living documents. Our manifesto is made to be continually altered through its digital format.

By creating this movement, we facilitate participation. Otherwise, we risk stagnation and rigidity. Our members  bring their own meanings and interpretations to a space where they openly interact, decentering each others’ work by adding to or subtracting from it with their own. By contributing, individuals are exposed to new people, new experiences, and new ways of thinking. This is a “co-creative world” (Armstrong, 13). And we do not scorn a “newly awakened crowd of amature creatives” (Armstrong, 21). Let us celebrate unpredictability and serendipity.

By creating this movement, we gain efficiency. The greater the number of participants, the more initially complex and diverse the responses. Our community is already involved in making, which means constant “user” feedback, which means a more continually reflective design process.

We (the AUTEURS) express individual views within the context of a collective mindset. In doing so, we advance communal creativity. We are more than open-source - we exist to co-design and, therefore, co-create. We are never one individual. We strip authoritarian roles of their original meanings, rest oring balance and equality to designers, amature and expert. We are the work of many. We are the AUTEURS.