Death of the Author; Aura of the Letter

Firstly, this post will not be on technology. It will not concern itself with the issue of copyright, cyberspace or Copyscape even though that topic is worth exploring in terms of cultural value, work of art, and simulacra. In the end (if there is one), what is put on the internet, inscribed and written down, precipitates the death of the author. For the final answer of the letter is none other than: “Eat your Dasein.”[1] Even the citation goes as far to demonstrate that the letter lives beyond the author for what Lacan was, in actuality, referring to the password of a Congress in Zurich in the year before the Seminar was given.

But I digress. The imperative here is the usage of language, which, in the world that we are speaking of today, is English. What I am writing now-which at the moment of completion will materialise my death-arises out of a need to respond to a lack that can be located anywhere today and that is the abuse of one’s language. At this point, I claim that the pertinence of this post will only be realised insofar that the addressed reader takes pride in her linguistic skills and places a priority on language, which is already much more than we can ask of from the average individual.

To set up the stage, let us recall the event. It so happened that I visited Ms. T’s weblog for the first time simply because I read that her entire weblog had been plagiarised, copied word for word. In her blog, she claims:

It’s so heartbreaking to see my contents were used carelessly by someone. The site is stealing all my blog content and put its niche words all over the posts without even paying attention to my sentences and words. My thoughts and posts are not appreciated at all, just like rubbish and junk![2]

Indeed, one does sympathize with her. Plagiarism is an issue that is quite close to the heart of any creators of works of art. Bu let us set aside the issue of plagiarism for the moment and look at her usage of English.

Clearly, Ms. T. has no sense of irony, especially in light of the penultimate sentence. Either that or I believe we should abuse the institution which “imparted” English to her. According to her, the site does not pay any attention whatsoever to her sentences and words. But when I paid a visit to the offending site, this is what I saw:

 It’s so heartbreaking to see my contents were used carelessly by someone

 The site is stealing all my blog content and put its niche words all over the posts without even paying attention to my sentences and words

 My thoughts Markets research and Marketing research posts are not appreciated at all, just like rubbish and junk![3]

Other than the key search-words that were inserted (“Markets research and Marketing research”) and the bulleting of Ms. T’s sentences, no other major changes were seen. Contrary to what Ms. T claims, I conclude that her thoughts and posts, are appreciated. Obviously, they paid attention to her words and sentences, albeit it is grammatically unsound as well. If I twiddle with the last offending sentence, I get:

My thoughts, Markets [sic] research, and Marketing research posts are not appreciated at all, just like rubbish and junk!

What is different? What is now present that was absent?

A sense of clarity.

We now know that Ms. T likes to think about market research and she writes on marketing research too. Indeed, because I cringe at every sentence I read when I was at her site.

At this point, let me remind you that this, in no way, constitutes a personal attack on the integrity of the said blogger. I am sure she is very amiable in nature and wonderfully helpful. I only blame the people who taught her English.

More importantly, I believe that this case is symptomatic of a larger issue that is occurring globally. Due to the proliferation of the internet and the increase in the number of blogs (I believe no statistics are needed to prove this point, or is my belief misplaced?), the population seems to opine that everyone can write, be a blogger and obtain “fame and fortune” in the internet. One sees countless schemes that pays you to blog for money. We have Google Adsense, Payperpost.com, the semi-local Nuffnang, Blogitive, and more. A simple search for the word “paid blogging” on Google turned up 5,120,000 results.

Everyone wants to be famous by collecting ad revenue. Is this not another form of fetishization, that the use value of blogging has degenerated into exchange value? To such a blogger, page rank is perhaps all they discuss about. How to get the most “eyeballs,” to keep people on the site, to generate controversy just for publicity.

What about trying to write or speak in proper English? Clear, properly CAPITALIZED and spelt. Stop living in a delusion by telling others that their English is fine. You know it’s not. Of course, “fine” only goes so far as to be able to be understood. If that is your standard of “fine,” so be it. Your Elngsih si fine, they say.

Nick Usborne does a good job of explaining why in the technological age, we can only fall back to the last bastion that captures the human aura and differentiates us from machines.[4] He has a vested interest in talking about it because of his profession but the bottom-line is that he’s right.

The only solution is writing. Properly.

Even if it signifies the death of an author, even if language is essentially méconnaisance, the letter still captures the human aura of that individual.

At this hazardous moment, we put our profile pictures on different sites, customize the template, add different widgets to give the site an “individuality,” to differentiate technology from each other. We create different profiles to reflect our different personalities; different blogs for different activities. We upload photographs of ourselves to [re]create the human aura that’s slowly retreating in this technological age. Using lies to cover more lies. The perversion lives on in each of us, undetected. Technology has become us. One day, we will become the characters in Huxley’s Brave New World, or would it be Bladerunner? The results would be no different.

Therefore, we write.

As we give our lives to the letter, so does the letter let us live on in temporality, falling back to the place which has captured the last vestiges of the human aura.

The letter.


[1] Lacan, “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter,” In Écrits, translated by Bruce Fink, 2007.[2] T., http://www.ruangsudut.info/2007/11/i-quit.html, accessed on 14 November 2007.
[3] http://www.toysrours.com/market-research/market-research-i-quit-market.html, accessed on 14 Nov 2007.[4] See Usborne’s “Words-the last, best way to differentiate yourself online,” http://www.nickusborne.com/articles_art7.htm

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