Excerpted from Expanding Authorship: Project Delivery in the Post-Digital Era by Adam Modesitt
Project authorship in AEC has always been complex but is now markedly more so.
Since the advent the profession of architecture, buildings have been authored by a multifaceted assemblage of roles, trades, and professions. Despite the predominance of singular personalities and brands in AEC, project authorship is invariably collective. Even within firms most closely associated with a single personality, a multitude of staff, representing diverse expertise, contribute to the authorship of any given project.
As projects extend throughout the delivery process, the number of actors contributing to project authorship increases. Moreover, authorship in AEC is informed by precedents, products, standards, new technologies, and other knowledge generated outside the project team.
The transformation of AEC by digital production has further complicated project authorship. Digital production seamlessly interconnects distributed points of origin, blurring formerly codified delineations of project authorship.
Yet project authorship is not an amorphous act, and the digital transformation of AEC has increased the importance of establishing individual authorship. Firms’ identities are tied to demarcations of their authorship. Intellectual property and copyright ownership require clarity of authorship. Decision making requires lines of responsibility and cannot be wholly distributed. Legal, contractual, and regulatory requirements still hinge on delineating individual authorship.
Project authorship in AEC is at once inclusive and exclusive. Reconciling individual and collective project authorship amidst ubiquitous digital production raises questions for both individual firms and AEC as a whole. What is the trajectory of the digital transformation, and how will collaboration in AEC evolve? How will the AEC professions redefine themselves amidst increasingly interconnected, interdisciplinary digital production? How can individual firms position themselves amidst increasingly complex, distributed digital workflows? How will more increasingly computational tools further transform project delivery?
The most productive questions do not concern the relative importance of individual or collective authorship, but the relationship between the two, and the transformation of the playing field upon which project authorship now takes place.
The transformed field requires an understanding of how individual authorship impacts collective authorship. It requires positioning individual authorship within the larger collective for maximum effect, to amplify individual authorship to the greatest extent possible. In parallel, it requires structuring collaboration to enhance collective authorship. The transformed field requires new ways of working that expand the possibilities for both collective and individual project authorship.
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