Kennedy, Krista.  “The Daw and the Honeybee: Situating Metaphors for Originality and Authorial Labor in the 1728 Chambers’ Cyclopedia.”  College English 76 (1).  September 2013.

This article is open access and available from College English here. 

  • K. begins by recognizing that metaphors in the intellectual property debate function in the interest of particular groups but are fundamentally rhetorical . . . even if they masquerade as fundamental truths.
  • K. acknowledges that the metaphors of intellectual property are pervasive and frame our understanding/conceptualization of “the ethics of borrowing, sharing, and creating cultural artifacts” (36).  Studying these metaphors diachronically provides opportunities to see how these metaphors are naturalized and made truthful, or self-evident.
  • Main claim: “Here, I demonstrate that our anxieties and theories about the sort of distributed authorship that occurs among thousands of authors who compose Wikipedia are not unprecedented, but rather find one forerunner in descriptions of encyclopedic authorship from the preface of the 1728 Ephraim Chambers’s Cyclopedia” (36).  So, the digital/analog distinction is, perhaps, not that much of a distinction after all.
  • K. argues that Chambers’s encyclopedia also presents a different notion of authorial labor than the contemporary articulations that focus almost exclusively on authorship as ownership – be it corporate, private, or communal (36).
  • K. notes that the labor of authorship is something that needs to be re-examined in historical and contemporary contexts, noting that the relationship between genre and labor processes create some curious problems and potentials for ownership (37).
  • K. pays special attention to Chambers because his metaphoric use of the honeybee is important for understanding our present relationship to distributed authorship, textual ownership, and differing writing processes (38).  K. claims that a Chambersian (my word) authorship emphasizes the need for “careful unoriginal research,” “derivative works,” and “crowdsourcing.”  As such, Chambers’s approach prefigures many of the tensions concerning open access and authorship in distributed, peer produced archives like Wikipedia.
  • K. notes that Chambers recognized himself as the author of the Cyclopedia; however, his articulation of authorship was heavily unoriginal, based heavily in the processes of “arrangement and recomposition” (39).  In this way he’s pushing against the author as inventional and more toward the author as arranger.
  • K. likens Chambers  use of the bee metaphor in the preface of the Cyclopedia as “a gatherer in an information ecology” (41).  The bee metaphor is important and should, according to K., be interpreted two ways: 1) in terms of the cultural knowledge of the period;  and 2) in terms of social class, economic value, and mores of the Enlightenment project — in addition to the obvious association with bee as industrious aggregator/arranger/assembler.
  • The association Chambers draws with the bee is an ethotic move, designed to position himself in better company than the masquerading Daw of non-royal society.  It also drew on the ethos of religious, craft, and scientific domains as the bee, honey, and beeswax were important/respected objects during the Enlightenment period.  K. also argues that Chambers’s use of the bee metaphor could be traced to the literary position of bees from the ancients to his own time as well as the compositional labor of the encyclopedia itself (47-9).
  • K. highlights that the bee metaphor is particularly apropos of British governing structures/monarchy/ideal society; however, this metaphor also poses the individual citizen as a worthless, non-thinking drone (52).
  • K. argues that while we’ve long considered the Author to be a culturally situated construct, we should also consider intellectual property doctrine in much the same way – deeply contextual/situated (53).  K.’s novel contribution in this piece includes her emphasis on the rhetorical claim making that Chambers made to ethos vis-a-vis the metphor of the honeybee.
  • K. gestures toward the importance of recognizing the possible problems with contemporary IP doctrine by noting that metaphors like the Sweat of the Brow may be misguided when comparing the contexts that differ between Locke’s and our own.

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