Crowdsourcing, networking, online community, Fordism, division of labor. These are words that one usually does not think of as being important or pertinent when one is about to buy a book – a historical novel – from a bookstore somewhere in Italy in 2014. And, most of the time, “our common reader” would be right: those words are not important or pertinent. Besides, even the reading of the book itself will not make our common reader change his/her mind: it is a typical historical novel set in the Italian Resistance during World War II. Nothing suspicious at all. Still, something else is at stake here and those opening words not only have something to do with this book but, in some way, they have cooperated to produce it.
Turin, May 12, 2007. At the Fiera del Libro, Italian writers Vanni Santoni and Gregorio Magini presented something that – they hoped – would transform collective writing into a common literary practice: S.I.C., an acronym which stands for Industrial Collective Writing but these three letters, as a matter of fact, contain and mean much more.
S.I.C. indicates both a particular form of literature – based on a particular form of collective writing – and an open community that uses it and contributes to it through a peculiar kind of crowdsourcing and division of labor. As a writing method, S.I.C. was devised trying to conjugate the advantages of both previous online collective writing projects and “traditional” ones and, at the same time, to avoid their respective disadvantages. Open and wiki projects such as “A Million Penguins” have shown great creative freedom in progress but poor effective results. On the other hand “classical” collective works, such as chain novels or works by well-established collectives, tend to present coherent results at the price of limiting freedom and amplitude.
S.I.C. tries to gain the best from those precedents through a double division: dividing the narration in different parts – characters, places, actions – each one addressed in a specific “file” and dividing the participants between writers and Artistic Directors. In this way – the method is fully described at www.scritturaindustrialecolletiva.org and it can be used by anyone – S.I.C. wrote five short stories. However, the initial goal of S.I.C. was to write a “Great Open Novel” and this ambition was fulfilled in 2013 with the publication of In Territorio Nemico, a historical novel written by 115 authors, the novel we have started with and described as “typical”.
How is it possible, then, that a novel whose plot was built through some sort of online call for papers – people were asked to send stories and anecdotes occurred during World War II – and whose actual writing was carried on through an online collective method of composition and selection, has such a normal appearance? Why does an unconventional method like S.I.C. intend “to write a book which is first of all a good book”? This paper aims to investigate the meaning of a literary method (or strategy) which breaks with “paper” and tradition but it is still profoundly bound to them.
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