Universal Authorship


You saw it coming.

Your grandma has a blog and your friend’s tweets are invading whatever small sliver of silent privacy you had left.  We’re all becoming authors.  Is this trend inevitable?

Denis G. Pelli and Charles Bigelow‘s latest article in Seed magazine examines the phenomenon of authorship, and the two men have done something amazing:  they’ve charted the number of published authors per year since 1400, creating the first published graph of the history of authorship.

“We found that the number of published authors per year increased nearly tenfold every century for six centuries. By 2000, there were 1 million book authors per year. One million authors is a lot, but they are only a tiny fraction, 0.01 percent, of the nearly 7 billion people on Earth. Since 1400, book authorship has grown nearly tenfold in each century. Currently, authorship, including books and new media, is growing nearly tenfold each year. That’s 100 times faster. Authors, once a select minority, will soon be a majority.”

They considered a text “published” if more than 100 people had read it, so this authorship extends to tweets.  Even though many wouldn’t consider tweeting as being an author, they are trying to examine the sphere of influence.

Then the important question in their essay arises: “But does increasing authorship matter?”

Anisse Gross is a writer, editor, artist and question asker living in San Francisco. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, The Believer, Lucky Peach, Buzzfeed, Brooklyn Quarterly, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She openly welcomes correspondence, friendship, surprises and paid work. More from this author →