Greasemonkey and a Challenge to Notions of Authorship

Greasemonkey and a Challenge to Notions of Authorship

Brian D. Ballentine (West Virginia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-999-1.ch002
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This chapter introduces Greasemonkey, a new extension for the Firefox browser, which enables users to alter the behavior and appearance of Web pages as the pages load. The chapter claims that Greasemonkey is forcing a reevaluation of what it means to be an author in digital environments. Using Michel Foucault’s (1979) original question, “What is an author?” the chapter argues that creators of Greasemonkey scripts take on the additional roles of designer and programmer. Also, the chapter cautions that since Greasemonkey scripts have the ability to alter the layout, navigation, and advertising on a Web page, there may be legal ramifi cations in the future for this open source project.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Active Browsing: Using Greasemonkey scripts allows individuals browsing a Web site to take control and alter that site’s appearance and even functionality. The term active browsing is used in contrast to what Greasemonkey users deem the traditional, passive approach to Web browsing.

Author-Function: Michel Foucault developed this term to call into question our ideas about what it means currently to create a work or a text. His definition of a text extends beyond traditional printed works and into other media. The author-function is not a direct analog for the person or individual we call the author. Rather, it is our understanding of how text is produced, distributed, and consumed. Foucault states that the idea of an author has not always existed and that there may be a time when a text is produced, distributed, and consumed without the individual we call the author.

Book Burro: A Greasemonkey script that works with’s Web site. The script displays competing pricing as well as library availability of a book found on Amazon’s site.

JavaScript: An object-oriented, cross-platform, Web scripting language originally developed by Netscape Communications, JavaScript is most commonly used for client side applications.

Greasemonkey: An extension for the Mozilla Firefox browser that enables users to install client-side user scripts that alter the behavior and appearance of Web pages. The alterations occur as a Web page is downloaded and rendered in a user’s Web browser. The alterations occur without the consent of the site owners.

NAPSTER: The first peer-to-peer file-sharing service that by the middle of 2000 had millions of users. Record industries sued Napster for facilitating the free exchange of copyrighted material. By July of 2001, Napster was shut down.

User Scripts: Computer programming that can be activated in order to alter the appearance of a Web page.

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