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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za


 
Boeke | Books > Boekartikels | Articles on books > English

Big Book Chain Chat #28: Googledocs, Googlebuzz, Googlechat – collaborative writing in New Media


Anton Krueger - 2011-01-04

Since I’ve been playing at writing, I’ve been waiting with breath duly bated for the emergence of my Voice. Yes, I’ve been patiently awaiting the arrival of my own distinctive tone by means of which to describe my particularly unique concerns to the world at large; but this year it struck me: I don’t have one. I’ve subsequently become drawn to the idea of collaborative writing; piggy-backing on the voices of others, or contributing to the invention of brand new personas.

If you have a gmail account, it’s now possible to create a googledoc, which is then owned by more than one person. It’s very different from sending a Word document back and forth, because anybody who owns the document can jump in at any time and two or more people can work simultaneously in real time on the same text. This opens up a whole world of collaborative possibilities.

In the last year, I collaborated on a children’s play with Ashraf Jamal’s eleven-year-old daughter Sahar. I’ve also begun a number of other collaborative projects with different people, including a novel, a screenplay, a children’s story and a TV series. What’s extraordinary for me is how different each of these pieces of writing is – stylistically, thematically, and in every way conceivable – and yet in each text the writing appears to have been authored by a single, substantial entity. It’s as though a third writer has been created; as though Jurgen Habermas’s communicative “Third Space” has been objectified into a thinking, feeling being with its own concerns distinct from either of the individuals who’ve contributed towards its creation. 

During the last year my main collaboration has been with my friend Pravasan Pillay in Stockholm. We’ve been working on a series of comedy monologues / shaggy-dog stories, which are going to be published in 2011 under the title of Shaggy. Five of the stories have already been serialised in that wonderful art mag from Pretoria, A Look Away. A selection of the stories were also performed as monologues at the National Arts Festival.1

So anyway, here’s a public conversation between myself and Prava which took place a few days after gmail launched their “buzz” function earlier this year. This function allows one to host a public conversation which can be seen by anybody else with gmail accounts linked to their own. It’s sort of like the “Status updates” in Facebook. As the astute reader will soon discern, in this conversation Prava and I grapple with the nature of the collaborative artefact and the plenitude of values excessively extrapolated within abbreviations of the public sphere; dovetailing claims for an innate authenticity with the demands of freedom and interdependence.

 

[1] Shika Budhoo of Artsmart described the show as:  
A comedy and social commentary piece that runs like a pair of freshly laddered stockings … once you’re in it, there’s no going back! ... The show is an all-round success in presentation and script. A funny and entertaining piece of theatre, that is well performed and constantly keeps the cogs of the mind turning and churning.

 

11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - Buzz - Public
what the fuck is this shit?!
Anton Krueger - that’s not a very nice thing to say to the c.i.a. 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - is this what the youngsters call the facebook? 11 Feb
Anton Krueger - you got sucked right in ... all those years of steadily ignoring invites to facebook and you fell right into the middle of the quagmire ... gmail has found your social side. 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - not you too gmail ... not you too ... 11 Feb
Anton Krueger – this is gonna hit the one thing which always made gmail such a beaut – its speed ... you can feel the whole programme already labouring under the weight of its social obligations and networking responsibilities ...  Edit11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - its the great gatsby all over again ... poor gmail ... poor old sport. 11 Feb
Anton Krueger - you realise we’re having a public conversation here? well, between all the ppl following you and me ... any of them could just jump in here at any time and leave a comment ... so not another word about the you know what ... 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - fuck. i was just about to talk about the you know what ... thanks for alerting me. 11 Feb
Anton Krueger - k ... good job ... let’s just take it easy and maybe things will blow over and nobody will ever find out ... i doubt anybody will read this anyway, so it’s probably ok ... 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay ok, let’s just stay calm here. 11 Feb

Anton Krueger - i’ve just realised the danger of abbreviations ... when writing to the executive of a publication targeted at "upmarket residential estates" who wants to promote yr book, it’s probably best not to flourish off one’s mail with the shorthand: "c u nxt week". lesson learnt.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - i hope you pack that lesson away and learn from it. life is one big lesson, don’t you find?11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - but, again, where and when is this c u n t week happening? some kind of fest huh? just mail me the dates ... i know some sickos who’ll probably want to go. so lame, i know. yeah, but just send me those dates otherwise they’ll never get off my back ... yeah, so i’ll just wait for that mail. anytime is good. send it now if you’re not doing anything.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - is waiting ... for a mail ... no rush ... got lots of other stuff to do ... still it’d be nice if came, so i could just strike it off my list.11 Feb
Anton Krueger - in the meantime, here’s sthing we need to work into a shaggy story concerning the rise in murders of karaoke singers in the philippines who sing sinatra:
11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - dude, don’t talk about shaggy in a public forum. way to go, krueger, way to go.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - this is why we can’t have nice things. 11 Feb
Anton Krueger - well, after knockin’ ellipses as "the hippie punctuation mark" you should be surprised i’m talking to you at all ... public forum or no. ... (you know how much i love my ... ellipses) ... Edit11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - i use hippie as a term of endearment.11 Feb
Anton Krueger - what’s yr sentiment on the highly underutilized em-dash? always had a fondness for them em’s ... .Edit11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - i find them to be commitment phobic.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay - so when’s this ridiculous c u n t week? so laughable, hey? i mean haven’t we gone past the objectification of the fairer sex yet? hello? it’s 2010! you should send me those dates and maybe i can get a picket going or something. i’ll probably have to register for the whole c u n t week. you know, so i can get in there good, and just when they least expect it - BAM - unfurl my banner - "Free Vaginas Now!"11 Feb
Anton Krueger – speaking of which, have you seen that play, “the vagina monologues”?  ... what a gyp, man ... i checked it last night and there wasn’t a single talking vagina in the whole production ... 12 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – i think that speaks volumes on our current predicament. volumes. 12 Feb