“Scriptors”: Changing How We Think of Education

In her chapter on authorship from her book “Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy” Kathleen Fitzpatrick explores what may happen if we change how we understand the word author and perhaps “that we should think of ourselves as “scriptors” rather than “authors” (61). Fitzpatrick explores what this shift in our thinking will ultimately effect how we produce scholarly writing and in turn education.

Fitzpatrick points out that moving toward “electronic writing [will complicate] our understanding of literature as either mimesis or expression, it denies the fixity of the text and it questions the authority of the author” (63). It is suggested that electronic writing, like blogging, is a more malleable form, which would make scholarly writing more accessible, allowing a greater opportunity of the growth and transformation of ideas. Since we are writing this blog I thought how could thinking of myself as a “scriptor” as opposed to “author” and instead thinking of my writing as malleable, rather than finished product, change how I learn? What I found most interesting was the quote Fitzpatrick used from Bill Readings in The University in Ruins where he “calls attention to the ways that the metaphor of “production” in scholarly life transforms the university into “a bureaucratic apparatus for the production, distribution, and consumption of knowledge” (67). The idea that scholarly writing is more concerned with production and completion not only causes anxiety within the “author”, but it is not the best way to educate future scholars. During my undergrad it was my understanding that I was there to learn about new things in depth and that there would be a focus on writing, at least while taking an English and Film Studies BA.

However, while completing my undergraduate degree it was my experience along with many others that there was never enough time to complete anything of significance or to maintain the “going above expectations” across all classes. What ended up happening was I would do well in the course I put the most effort in while my other classes tended to fall by the wayside. In programs like the humanities we are assigned project after project with emphasis on the production of creative and original ideas each time a new and entirely separate work was produced. There are rules like, if we wrote an essay on the same topic in a test we could not write on the same topic for later assignments. I think there needs to be more of a balance between the production of new creative ideas and learning about one topic in more depth, as well as a larger emphasis on the writing process. For example, allowing students to write, work and rework the same idea for the length of the course; assigning things like annotated bibliographies, essay proposals all based on the same topic rather than generating different topics like a machine, would ultimately give the student a better understanding of his or her topics and stimulate the production of new ideas. Doing away with the “you can only write the final essay on something you haven’t written on” should be, you can write about the same thing as long as you bring something new to the original work. There will still be completion, but all of the emphasis will not be put on that 80% process 20% completion; completion will come with the process.

Fitzpatrick looks at scholarly writing and academia and postulates the way it takes on more of a business model of education, but that “electronic writing” can change that model, making it more conducive for learning, education, and the spreading and sharing of knowledge.

Finally, she discusses the transformation of the blog and since its creation it has “come to refer to a wide range of ongoing web publications in an equally wide range of genres” (66). This wide range of genres prevents the limitations and boundaries of one specific discipline. So what electronic writing can do is operate as a place for ideas to grow and change, but will open up different avenues through which to explore a particular topic. The idea of producing and authoring original thoughts out of thin air is quickly becoming outdated. Make way for “The Scriptor”.

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