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CCCC 2006 in Review

E28 Why Plagiarism Makes Sense in the Digital Age: Copying, Remixing, and Composing

Catherine Latterell, "What Is Remix Culture?"

Latterrell defined her role in the panel by explaining her presentation is a collage and sampling of other voices so it is about remix as much as it is a remix. "Remix" is a modern metaphor for revision. She colored this point with examples of customized sneakers, the tuxedo t shirt, the tangelo, sprite remix, and my personal favorite, labradoodles. She then paired a quote by Emerson on quotation and originality with a remix of President Bush's State of the Union address that reversed his intended meanings. The collage of images and quotes continues with animation of Office Space meets Super Friends in which Superman, Green Lantern, Batman and Robin talk about memos and office procedures in what Latterell called a "classic mash up" or sampling. Next she showed DJ Spooky's "Rebirth of a Nation" which spoofed D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation by showing clansmen almost dancing to the technorhythms from both soundtrack and visual beats. Sampling, Latterell asserts, implies breakdown. Then she quoted Johndan Johnson-Eilola from his book, Datacloud: Toward a New Theory of Online Work where he asserts breakdown and further discussion as the essence of remix. Latterell concluded with the idea that Lawrence Lessig asserted at last year's conference—everything in life is remix.

James Porter, "Forget Plagiarism, Teach Filesharing and Fair Use"

Porter said his position is summed up by his title and that his paper is saying what others have already said. He listed his sources in a slide called "Bad influences…". Porter began with thinking by Lessig who asserts that pirating can be productive, and then Porter declared, "we are all pirates." The next slide offered a widely practiced black and white view of plagiarism as unacceptable and acceptable, but then Porter added a third category called "variable or context dependent" in the realm of "rhetorical and casuistic analysis." He used an example of new teachers using a common syllabus as un-attributed use of words and ideas that is acceptable. Next Porter entered the variable or context dependent category by questioning his students about the ethical use of someone else's design template and students responded by saying it depends on the class. Porter asked if we have ever used another course's plagiarism policy without permission, or copy a CV design without attribution, pointing out that we use design without attribution routinely and defines this as allowable plagiarism. He also pointed out how we reuse content in grants, as WPA's, and other educational documents. Porter thinks we plagiarize all the time and that it's a professional practice of professors only we don't tell students. Stealing words is not the problem so much as taking other's work and representing it as your own in contexts that matter. Porter provoked this reviewer to think that all language is plagiarized, and I also wondered why we don't cite the MLA system of documentation when we use it.

Danielle Nicole DeVoss, "Pastiche, Remix, the RIAA, and/in the Writing Classroom"

DeVoss talked very quickly combining visual slides and questions about copyright and "ownership of text and other media in a copy-and-paste. file sharing world." She believes our present paradigm favors print media but is shifting to "digitally based views of delivery." Next she offered a scenario of asking students to translate and illustrate a piece of writing into a multimedia piece where traditional copyright is ignored. DeVoss criticized our field as falling more under the copyright category than the copyleft category. Indeed, as I wrote this review I was aware of how much of other's words and ideas I'm re-mixing into the review with the hope that presenters, attenders, and those who were unable to attend will continue to think about some of the most provocative and important issues in our profession.

Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart Selber, "Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage"

Johnson-Eilola did not attend the conference so Selber began their joint presentation with a remixed movie trailer of The Shining. The clip used a voice overlay that had upbeat music from Genesis ( "Salsbury Hill") and voices of characters creating an idea of the movie that seems "like a happy relationship between a surrogate father and son" by remixing artifacts. Selber focused the session's argument by claiming that plagiarism is tied to the romantic notion of the lone writer working in isolation, and that the lone writer is still the principle image of writing we teach in our composition classes. Selber and Johnson-Eilola imagine that a final student text is concerned with "assemblages of parts" and focusing on what works more than whose parts are assembled. In other words, "What happens if we downplay need for 'original' text" and emphasize understanding "design patterns" more deeply. In theory, the presenters assert, a web designer can draw on one or more patterns offered from Yahoo without new text. He sees academic writing needing to question creativity. Instead of reinventing the wheel, he claims we need to focus on assemblages that solve problems and using citation as a primary form of creativity. Selber, following up on his fine book about multi-literacies concluded by saying that we should expect students to work through and collage other texts to remix and build academic assemblage whose value is not based on original writing so much as fluidity with multimedia.

— Will Hochman

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.