Sharing, Tweeting, and Authorial Control

The purpose of sharing information on social media is to spread content. However, in order for it to spread, it requires the creator to let go of some of the control. As Johnson-Eilola points out, the model of a single author speaking in a unified voice needs to be revised as “we live (and literally are at least partially ‘composed’) at the nexus connecting an apparently infinite number of social and technological forces of varying weights, strengths, and directions.” While most instructors of process-driven writing argue that a text can be endlessly revised and improved/updated, the revision and updating is often discussed in terms of the original author. We may have “conversations” with others’ writings, but their writing does not become our own. This type of ownership does not fit in the online environment, where words are easily copied, quoted, linked, rearranged, etc. For example, no one has complete authorial ownership of a Wikipedia entry.

One of the new media sites that best conveys the concept of writing in fragments is Twitter. A Twitter feed is composed of microblogs — some self authored, some retweeted, some retweeted with comments, some quotes, some images, and some merely links. We are not self-contained univocal writers on Twitter, but curators of information, remixed beings organizing and reorganizing our identities through sound bytes and images. Topics aren’t explored by one authoritative voice but by defined by multiple voices via hashtags. It is here that we can explore true collaborative writing.

Unfortunately, not every user of the web is able to let go of their authorial control. Earlier this summer I read a blog post I liked and I clicked the icon to share it on Twitter. A Tweet was automatically generated with the title and a link. Subsequently, the author complained because her name was not cited in the Tweet, nor was her Twitter handle. The question is, did she have a right to complain?

Yes, I could have taken the time to add more to the automated Tweet. I could have went to her Twitter feed to search if she had posted a link there and then retweeted it. I could have added my own commentary. However, if she did not want people to share an automated Tweet, she should not have that function available on her blog posts. By including it, she is not only giving her permission, but encouraging this type of sharing.

Writing online is more than just typing and posting words. The way a writer presents their words and the navigation/web functions they choose dictate how people will interact with those words. If an individual wants their ideas to be shared widely, then they need to make sharing a click away. When individuals share a blog post on Twitter or Facebook, they drive traffic to the site. Ultimately, this writer caused herself more harm by complaining, as I removed the Tweet, shutting down a possible avenue for site traffic. To use a cliché, she won the battle but lost the war. Her print mindset does not fit in with the rhetorical situation of her content. What she should of responded to those who chose to include her content on their curated Twitter feeds: thanks for sharing!

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