May 16, 2004 19:20 | Bits / Culture / Social

Who, what, when, where and why, and the death of the author

After reading Foucault's short piece "Author Function", I thought the following.

Take any expression, be it a text, a song, a painting, and label it "The What". Label the author (composer, painter, etc) "The Who", and and attach it as a property of The What. The Who property can contain the properties of "The When" and "The Where", giving us the contexts of a point in time and a point in space: environmental geo-political, historical, cultural context for The What.

If we bypass The Who, and ascribe The When & The Where directly to The What, as is the case with much Whats in the history of human expression, the role of The Who is stripped of it's Ego (or Id). Who said What, for Who's sake, is to a large extent quite irrelevant.

However, if I consider that had the aforementioned piece not been adorned with the name of Michel Foucault, I may not have stumbled across it, or even read it for that matter. The Who becomes a broadcast tower, a cultural signal repeater. The taller the tower, the further it's reach. The height of the Tower of Who is a function of relevance, quality, reliability... and social network engineering. I say engineering because it takes a lot of work to build one's Tower of Who. Who am I. Who do you think I am. In marketing, this is called brand building. And the more time one spends on building one's Tower of Who, the less one spends on refining one's What.

Arguably, in a cultural system where every What has clearly mapped When and Where, the Who becomes increasingly irrelevant.

With timestamps and GPS coordinates, the battle against the ego begins in earnest.

As for The Why... are we not still trying to touch the face of godliness? Are we not still merely trying to recreate the world in our own collective and connected minds?