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Everyone’s an Author, But Is Anyone Worth Reading?

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Media, Science and Technology, literacy, authorship, privacy, Seed, American Conservative,

Blogging ThisIn just four years, everyone on earth may be an author. When books were the dominant form of publishing, a small minority of the world’s population had their words published. Now, Twitter, Facebook, and social networking sites are making authors into the majority. From the year 1400 to 2000, according to Denis G. Pelli and Charles Bigelow in Seed, the number of published authors rose by tenfold every century. For the past decade, authorship has grown by tenfold every year. Eventually, the authors predict that everyone on earth will be published.

Near-universal authorship is changing society, Pelli and Bigelow write. People are “trading privacy for influence,” and businesses and governments are being forced to adapt to the power that individuals now wield. People who fret about illiteracy throughout the world may soon extend their concern to people who can’t publish.

That concern is misguided, Albert Jay Nock writes for the American Conservative. Universal literacy creates near-universal mediocrity in literature, according to Nock. Teaching the world to read creates a market for schlock that forces worthwhile literature out of the market. In the article, which is fittingly behind a paywall, Nock writies:

The average literate person being devoid of reflective power but capable of sensation, his literacy creates a demand for a large volume of printed matter addressed to sensation; and this form of literature, being the worst in circulation, fixes the value of all the rest and tends to drive it out.

Nock laments mass literacy for the bad writing it creates. He should prepare for mass authorship.

Source: Seed, American Conservative (subscription required)

Image by Foxtongue, licensed under Creative Commons.

UPDATE: We tried to reach Albert Jay Nock for a comment, but found the conversation a trifle one-sided. Indeed, Nock has been dead for more than half a century. We regret the error.

tom hendricks
11/11/2009 1:03:48 PM

There are worse worries than people being able to read! Utne and other media should first end the boycott against all reports about the art and media revolution, the new music, art, writing; it's artists, advocates, and advocacy groups, etc. etc., and there will be floodgates of new great writing. It's already there (see Zine Hall of Fame). Beyond lit there is drawing. Note that we educate people on how to write but not to draw. That's saying what one hemisphere of the brain does is important and what the other does is not. Everyone should have a basic ability to draw, just as much as they have to write. Does it mean there will be many mediocre artists. Duh! But basic drawing skills are in many ways as important as basic writing skills. This too is part of the art and media revolution - that thing the media is blocking because it's too honest, real, and it is art with bite!


scott lahti
11/9/2009 4:19:45 PM

"That concern is misguided, Albert Jay Nock writes for the American Conservative...He should prepare for mass authorship." Although we longtime admirers of Nock - I've been writing on him since 1986 - are flattered at the implication that our urbane mentor is very much among us in ways more corporeal than in pure spirit, we note his death in 1945, and hope that curious readers will make forthwith to his unforgettable Memoirs of a Superfluous Man from 1943, one of the great subterranean classics of the last century, now free in PDF from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. If my review of the book at Amazon.com helps keep his memory green toward like ends, maybe the old boy will at the very least find reincarnation someday in one just now, like Nock himself in the 1870s, teaching himself to read off old newspaper clippings. Or, today, blog posts...