RELATED TERMS: Graphic Design; Narrative environment design

Generally conceived of as being the recognised quality (innate or conferred) that identifies someone as the (usually sole) originator of a work of art.

Nonsense of course, as has been well pointed out by Barthes, Foucault et al. (just think of Auteur Theory which proposed films as the products of authorial directors).

For details see the discussion in Authorship in Narrative environment design.

Authorship in Graphic Design

“The involvement of the designer in the mediation of the message to an audience. It can be argued that through the creation of visual messages, the designer has an equal role to play in the ways in which a piece of visual communication is read as the originator of the message itself. The designer as a form-giver or channel through which the message is passed, can play a key role in actually shaping the content of the message.
Some design theorists have borrowed the notion of the auteur from film theory in an attempt to build on this notion, while other have been provoked into a heated response which foregrounds the neutral role of the graphic designer within a commercial area.”

‘Visual Research’ – by Ian Nobel and Russell Bestley

Authorship in Narrative environment design

The notion of authorship, of the author, is much debated across a number of disciplines. What is generally accepted in most disciplines is that the ideas embodied in the notion of the “Great Tradition” (F. R. Leavis et al), i.e. that the author speaks to us with a magisterial voice, has ‘authority’, and it is our job to receive and understand the author’s message, no longer hold. In the postmodern debate initiated by Barthes and Foucault (Barthes, Roland (1968), “The Death of the Author”, Image, Music, Text (published 1977) ; Foucault, Michel (1969), “What is an Author?”, in Harari, Josué V., Textual Strategies), meaning is unstable and transitory, assembled in a number of ways from a number of sources, in a process over which the ‘author’ (conceived as the original assembler or producer of a text) has little control. These issues become even more complex in the fields of theatre and music performance, where it is accepted (including by ‘authors’) that the ‘text’ is only received via the performers’ ‘interpretation’.

In the field of narrative environment creation, it is clearly important for makers to understand their position within this debate. Given that they will almost certainly be working with heterogenous elements (e.g. the items in a museum collection, a variety of different media deployed in a complex space, etc) it is necessary for them to consider how these elements will be perceived, understood and threaded together by a public. Questions of whether the story is told top down or bottom up, how the story is being constructed at any given moment and by whom, the relationship of the public to the narrative, have to be considered in order to generate a coherent narrative.

Stuart Jones