Appropriation: Towards a Sociotechnical History of Authorship

  • Adriaan van der Weel (University of Leiden)


The evolution of our literate culture across the millennia has been marked by clearly identified and well-documented milestones in the history of reading and writing technologies. Changes in literacy, understood as the sum of reading and writing practices, have always followed such milestones at some remove. Not only are they much more diffuse in character and much harder to identify and describe, but they stand in a tenuous cause-and-effect relationship to the technologies in question. This article makes a plea for a stronger awareness of the effects of technology on our literate culture. Reading has always received a fair amount of attention (with the history of reading being a prominent subdiscipline of the field of book studies), but it should be recognized that its corollary, authorship, is a central, and, as digital technology is becoming ubiquitous—at least in the Western world—, increasingly important part of our literate culture, too. With Web 2.0 technology enabling more people than ever in history to write for public or at least semi-public consumption, the concept, definition and status of authorship is in need of radical revision.

Keywords: intellectual property, authorship, appropriation, digital text technology, digital paradigm

How to Cite:

van der Weel, A., (2015) “Appropriation: Towards a Sociotechnical History of Authorship”, Authorship 4(2). doi:

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Published on
01 Dec 2015
Peer Reviewed