Of meerkats and plagiarism
Monday January 21st 2008, 5:59 pm
Filed under: copy-and-paste,plagiarism,poetry,teaching Tags:

Ah, copy, paste, and google. You have radically altered the landscape of plagiarism.  Indeed, you have opened fascinating questions about originality, and perhaps blurred the boundaries, some, as fair use and copyright and the exactness of digital reproduction battle it out in a landscape not even vaguely imagined by Benjamin and his art of mechanical reproduction.  The trifecta of google, copy, paste has made it infinitely easier to translate (trans+latio, to bear or carry over or across) materials from one context to another.  At the same time, of course, the classic arms-race model of students vs. teachers (it’s not really oppositional, of course, but the ethical question of plagiarism is an important one.  Plus, we wrap our courses and our exams in a sort of shrink-wrap honor code: cheating will be punished, and enrolling in our institution constitutes immediate acceptance of this.)  has made it infinitely easier to discover when materials have been lifted. (Sorry about the nested parentheses. I’m under-caffeinated, and trying to keep this vaguely comprehensible).  Anyway, I had a student a few years ago who attempted to copy-and-paste some materials from Wikipedia into a 5-page paper on Philip Larkin.  Not the sharpest of kids, the impassioned denunciation of Larkin’s opposition to be-bop and the implicitly racist judgement of Larkin as a white jazz critic on a natively black art form….well, it was clear my charming student didn’t write it, and was a no-brainer to find on the web.  (I love me my ‘statistically improbable phrases’, even if I use them heuristically, they work well enough.)  Revise and resubmit (I would’ve kicked him out, but I was leaving the school in weeks, and I fought the decent fight, but the good fight eluded me), only to discover the annoying little shit submitted a SECOND paper employing google-copy-paste, this time, at least, it was relevant to the paper and the analysis of poetry that had been assigned, and, to his credit, was the second google result on Larkin rather than Wikipedia as the first result.  All of which is to say, meerkat journalism makes for really awful dialogue in romance novels.



I served the king of england
Wednesday January 16th 2008, 7:29 am
Filed under: libraries,myjobfuckingrocks,Work Tags:

Well, not exactly, but it’s a book well worth reading.  On the other hand, I just had dinner with the head of the Bibliothèque National, which was pretty fucking cool.