Tuesday, September 04, 2007

computer literacy and academic literacy

A further discussion of adult literacies.
This argument - that there is nothing wrong with cut and paste- pressupposes that the sources are acknowledged, to do less being academic theft.

The university I work at has recently started using turnitin,software to detecct plagiarism. Having used it and discovered that a few, maybe 1-2%, have aproblem in writing there own thoughts, I'm prompted to consider whats wrong with a cut and paste culture and just maybe there is nothing wrong with it.
The advantages:
Clearly delineates what is not the students own work
The disadvantages: the risk is that no knew thinking is generated- or at least that there is no evidence of new thinking generated- so maybe the task of academics becomes a little harder- how do we know what a student learns if they dont put it out there.

A further tangent to consider is that maybe its the way of our future? The use of cut and paste is so easy, there's an accuracy that cant be denied in using the authors own words, a bricolage or tapestry- stream of multiple persons consciousness on a theme.
The adult literacies of a future could be establishing the knowledge base (just like a lit review does) And then be followed by the authors own discussion.

In reading danah boyd, on social networking, she makes a link to
Copy and Paste Literacy? Literacy Practices in the Production of a MySpace Profile.]

In this article by Perkel, the making of identity within a social network (myspace) is discussed, the cutting and pasting of othereness creating an identifiable self.
Its a fascinating article.

The concept of otherness in creating self can be taken further. With a little tweaking informed by ANT, this could be described as being 'othertaken'.
In Latour's, Reassembling the social, he identifies how assemblages construct parts of a social world, and taking this further, identifies that actors are also subject to being constructed- being overtaken or 'other-taken'.

"When we act, who else is acting?"
In academia who else is acting includes the actors that are policy, historiacl conventions on conformity. The use of software, turnitin, becomes another actor, a sort of silent policeperson, that does a job. There are also the less overt actors, myspace may have an effect on the construction of self and the construction of social conventions, and potentially even on academic conventions. Maybe there are other ways to write and to think and to contribute new knowledge.

Just a provocation, but I am interested in what readers think.
The 'machine is us/ing us' and its worth considering the effects.


  1. Anonymous8:48 PM

    We all stand on the shoulder's of giants Ailsa

    But as I was forced to articulate to another recently - "I am less tolerant of unacknowledged shoulder standing now that I no longer have a guaranteed income/ salary and rely upon my thinking for employment."

    My ability to earn relies heavily on these new connections and new thinking (I am not paid a salary by an institution)and we put a lot of time into researching and developing the new ideas.

    We are of value to others because of the originality of our thinking. If everything, we develop is appropriated by others, (and a surprising amount of it is - teachers are rotten plagiarists) then there is no incentive to look for ways of doing stuff better. I’d be better off returning to secondary science teaching – or perhaps real estate - undoubtedly earning more but with fewer adventures.

    I am yet to be convinced that the common law rationale for intellectual property regimes has been made irrelevant by the age of Web 2.0 and danah's cut and paste literacies.

    The objective behind creating intellectual property rights (IPR) is to improve society.

    Intellectual property regimes seek to achieve this objective by encouraging people to take up the riskier path of innovation, research, and development. The ideas, understandings, and innovations developed are unlike a physical resource that can be controlled by possession. Instead once these ideas and discoveries are exposed to the public they are vulnerable to adaptation and exploitation at a fraction of the initial development cost. So IPR regimes create exclusive quasi-monopolistic rights over innovation, utilizing the market to provide powerful incentives for people to take risks.

    And despite all that Web 2.0 rhetoric about participatory cultures it seems from the stats coming out of wikipedia edits and You Tube uploads that this is yet to happen. We still rely on the few to put the energy and time into innovation for the benefit of the rest

    Check out Bill Tancer’s article on Who's Really Participating in Web 2.0 in Time Business

    According to Hitwise, only 0.2% of visits to YouTube are users uploading a video, 0.05% visits to Google Video include uploaded videos and 0.16% of Flickr visits are people posting photos. Only the social encyclopedia Wikipedia shows a significant amount of participation, with 4.56% of visits to the site resulting in content editing.
    The digital native digital immigrant participation thing might also be a out of wack, for Hitwise data reveals that
    Not only is the percentage of participation very small online, there are some very strong skews as to who is participating. Visitors to Wikipedia are almost equally split 50/50 men and women, yet edits to Wikipedia entries are 60% male. The gender gap is even greater for YouTube, a site whose visitors are equally male and female, but whose uploaders are over 76% male.
    With age comes experience, as well as the desire to disseminate knowledge. There is a clear age difference between visitors to Wikipedia and editors of its content. Over 45% of visitors to the site are under the age of 35, while 82% of those making edits to the site are 35 years old or older.
    Web 2.0 has been successful in significantly broadening the amount material available to us, but reviewing the latest data reveals that we're still in the very early stages.

    Certainly the blogs I read are far more likely to contain “chinese whisper like” postings that repeat information posted elsewhere than any original analysis or critique of ideas.

    I guess I think tertiary students should attribute the contribution to their thinking just as we expect primary and secondary kids to cite references and acknowledge sources.

  2. If the cut and pasting is acknowledged then is it a problem? Putting it in your own words is a convention that still requires the thinking of others to be acknowledged, but often is not done, nor picked up- at least with a cut and paste this becomes evident using software such as turnitin.
    I concede its not just an issue of academic (dis)honesty, its also real peoples incomes, that are at risk with a culture of cutting and pasting thats not acknowledged.
    What if it is acknowledged though? Does a littany of cut and pastes (all attributed) then followed by discussion- suffice?

    The Chinese whisper style is evident in essays, thesis, journal publications, texts, lectures, conference presentations as well as in blogs. The cut and paste ease contributes. But I am left wondering- so long as its acknowledged- does it matter? I present myself as a person as an aggragation of labels, likes, dislikes, readings, acquired behaviours, patterns of thinking... And I see this in the question Latour asks- when i act who else is acting? I'm just wondering about the convention of altering whats said- putting it in your own words. writing it in your own style- is the adulteration a positive thing or not?

    In China, I am told the game of Chinese whispers is not known (but i have only asked 2 Chinese people).

  3. hi Ailsa
    as someone working at the same university (and taking an in-depth look at issues of assessment - of which Turnitin or electronic plagiarism detection is an important part) - my feeling is that we should move away from assessment questions that encourage the 'cut & paste' response and towards a more 'authentic' assessment process. This would acknowledge the reality of the remix mode that is web 2.0 and place the emphasis on performance of functional knowledge rather than rehearsal of declarative knowledge (see eg. http://www.resources.scalingtheheights.com/Constructive%20Alignment%20and%20Biggs.htm )...