The Future Redundancy of Plagiarism

April 6, 2007 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Microlearning, Plagiarism | Leave a comment
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Before I leave I wanted to raise your interest in the already mentioned Microlearning Conference in Innsbruck towards the end of June this year. Maybe we can meet there! And I thought that one possible way of raising your interest could be by presenting bits and pieces of my paper – the conclusion (sorry, Greg, it still has one quote in it that you recommended me to get rid of, and I can see now why, but I couldn’t let go…). This also explains how the Phaedrus quote fits in:

I have argued above that the emergence of microplagiarism and of the increase of plagiarism in student assignments in general have to be assigned to the contradictions between the rules of the academic and the digital world. If the promise of the Semantic Web comes true, as was suggested in the original article from 2001, it will “better [enable] computers and people to work in cooperation.”

The benefits this holds for the world of academia are indeed alluring: Individuals doing research online could harvest all metadata associated with a document using Semantic Web browsers. This information – and for our purpose: in particular bibliographic information, such as provided by Dublin Core – could be reused to generate references and reference lists.

Anybody who copies from a Semantic Web compliant website would not merely copy words, but automatically import all the information and meaning that she or he – in order to avoid plagiarism – was required to extract manually in the past. Writing essays and articles that meet the requirements of different style guides would be an easy task for everyone. If this scenario were to come true, the mere possibility of plagiarism would cease to exist.

Of course this would change the customs and traditions of the academic world fundamentally and would not be embraced by everyone. Certainly for a transitional period, and probably much longer, some educators might insist that students continue to write the reference lists manually, just as there are some today that insist that students refrain from using calculators.

The propensity of media technology to serve as an extension to human cognitive abilities has always been greeted with skepticism. One can find a great deal of the criticism that some students’ use of web resources attracts, preempted in Plato’s Phaedrus’ conclusion about writing, one of the first media technologies to fundamentally transform human knowledge and discourse:

Once any account has been written down, you find it all over the place, hobnob-bing with completely inappropriate people no less than with those who under-stand it, and completely failing to know who it should and shouldn’t talk to.

The opportunities for the circulation of content and for informal learning have never been greater than now, in the web-supported knowledge society. Microplagiarism draws our attention to the ‘Dark Side of the Force’ of microlearning, to the flip side of a socio-technological constellation in which the pragmatic opportunities for copying, using and editing someone else’s work are greater than ever.

The problem of microplagiarism will only cease to exist, if we manage to close the gap between the technological and the academic sphere and their diverging rules for the circulation and continuation of information. If ‘copy and paste‘ technically meant to not only copy alphanumeric characters, but also the semantic relations of a particular item of microcontent, then we would know that the gap has been closed.

The Semantic Web, the first stirrings of which are already visible in the development of ontologies and Semantic Browser extensions like Piggy-Bank, will be able to solve this problem and bridge the gap between human knowledge and computer data. Admittedly, the Semantic Web solution does not address the problem of learning and effective learning strategies, but it can help to raise student awareness of plagiarism and of ways to avoid it.

For the time being, the best strategy for dealing with the situation seems to be in setting students tasks that rule out or reduce the possibility of plagiarism in general.

P.S. I’ve got piggy bank on my browser now, it only works with Firefox, but I think it’s kinda neat. Wasn’t able to put it to any use yet, but hope to be able to do so in the future. Continuing to drop coins. Clickety-Clank, Clickety-Clank, your data go into my piggy bank.

I’m going to present at the Microlearning Conference!

March 27, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Microlearning, Plagiarism, success | 5 Comments
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Hey! This morning I got a notification that my proposal for the microlearning conference in Innsbruck has been accepted. I also got some very encouraging feedback from them – yay! yay! yay!

paper id 60: The Dark Side of the Force: The Issue of Microplagiarism in Microlearning
has been accepted.
The review comments are following, please consider them carefully when preparing the final version of your paper.

*Very well written paper and easy to read.
*Being an academic myself I have seen this problem a number of times
of the last years.
*Something missing in my opinion from the paper is how the moral
side of the problem. How does students react if you tell them not to
copy. Do they still do it but more carefully?

*Also, the semantic web is mentioned several time as the solution
but readers that are not that familiar with that name might benefit
from a discussion of how the semantic web would solve the problem!!
I strongly urge you to ad this!!!

*Some more minor things:
– Please connect the figures into the text. I.e. write in the text
“see figure 2” etc.
– It is always nice to see the heading “conclusions” at the end of
the paper. I didn’t realize I was reading the conclusions until I
reached the references 🙂
– What does footnote 18 mean???
Good work!

P.S. Here is a link to the older post that contains the microplagiarism abstract

The Dark Side of the Force: The Issue of Microplagiarism in Microlearning

January 31, 2007 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Austria, Friends, Learning English, Microlearning, Plagiarism, Teaching English | 1 Comment

Surprise! At the end of the day, I manage to crank out another post, as I, even more surprisingly, managed to crank out a paper before the day ended.

It’s a proposal for the Microlearning conference in Innsbruck this summer. An old school mate pointed me to it, and its going to be nice to attend the conference with him. Provided they accept us.

The last conference (no surprise) was fairly male and age-dominated, even if they managed to push the lady on the left into the frame a couple of times.

Microlearning 2006

Anyhow, here is the abstract of my proposal:

The Dark Side of the Force:
The Issue of Microplagiarism in Microlearning

Based on the analysis of authentic examples of plagiarism in student assignments, this article proposes the term ‘microplagiarism’ to describe a new kind of plagiarism which uses relatively short sections of arbitrary sources and combines them to form a bigger, seemingly unified text. The authors examine to which extent learning through plagiarizing may be an effective strategy in some areas of language learning and discuss the difficulties in separating microlearning from microplagiarism. The current gap between the digital and the academic sphere and their methods of circulating and continuing knowledge is identified as a cause for the increase of plagiarism. While the hope is expressed that the Semantic Web will take care of this issue, it is suggested for the time being to minimize the risk by setting students tasks that don’t encourage plagiarism.

I’m a Wikipedian now

January 18, 2007 at 6:08 pm | Posted in Internet, Plagiarism, Web 2.0, Wikipedia | 1 Comment

Logo WikipediaWoo yay! Alright, nothing to be proud of really… Today I edited my first article on Wikipedia. I wasn’t particularly bold or prolific, just added a link from the William Blake article to one on one of his paintings, The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun, which is crucial to the plot of both the Red Dragon film and novel.

I submitted precisely that information and introduced an additional subcategory, Blake in Film and Literature, to the main article as I wasn’t sure where exactly my contribution would fit in and nothing much on ‘Blake and Posterity’ was to be found there. I hope not all new Wikipedians start by adding new categories at will 😛

It’s fairly easy to come to grips with the Wikipedia mark-up, certainly if you know a bit of HTML. Do I feel any different now that I’ve become part of the smart mob that my students’ papers feed on? I was about to write ‘hardly so’ but then realized in the same breath that the article on smart mobs was just a stub*. And a proper one on ‘smart mob’ itself (singular) dos not even exist (The Smart Mobs page is about a a book by ole’ Howard Rheingold clicky – I didn’t realize he looked like a senior citizen from Florida!). Maybe that’s my first challenge coming there 😉

*: A stub is an article that is too short to provide encyclopedic coverage of the subject, but not so short as to provide no useful information. Wikipedia

Björk vs Mariah Carey

January 9, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Posted in Film, Plagiarism | 6 Comments

I’m always grateful when there are two or three nuggets in the pile of student assignments I have to plough through. Not to many these days, one has to concede, and that has a lot to do with the increasing amount of plagiarism – I’ve written about that before and hence won’t write about it again now. Use the categories menu on the right to retrieve these posts. Even the better assignments these days contain nicked intellectual property – sometimes just two to three lines, but that’s still enough to spoil the fun for me (and their chance of getting an A).

One of those rare nuggets that I got to read today was a comparison of Dancer in the Dark with Glitter. Europe vs America. Lars von Trier vs Vondie Curtis-Hall. Björk vs Mariah Carey. What a daring mix! But actually a rather proliferate one – two Godesses of popular culture starring as leading women in musical films, and in spite of minute acting experience.

Dancer in the Dark - Poster

Anyhow, if you haven’t seen Dancer in the Dark yet, put this down as the next item on your cultural to-do list. Just from reading the plot summary I felt liked I wanted to weep again.

Glitter - Mariah Carey

Glitter isn’t a must-see at all, but an interesting example of a pop star vehicle. A note on the side: This film’s release was delayed by three weeks because it was around that time that Mariah had her nervous breakdown… if that wasn’t to cast some doubt on the candyfloss world this film (and the corresponding album) tries to evoke.

With Björk in DDID the opposite seems to be the case: She becomes a vehicle for the tragic female protagonist, the extracted and newly embodier essence of hope, honesty, betrayal and despair, set to the tunes of a 1960s American musical. She took on the character of the heroine to such an extent that it became apparently unbearable (if not impossible) to interact with her on the set past shooting time. Lars von Trier has become infamous for being rude or even sadist with his actors – it’s this collaboration with Björk (or the lack of it) in particular that set the foundation for this rumour. Here’s a small teaser of an Interview with von Trier:

But then how were you able to finish Dancer in the Dark at all, with the war going on?

I honestly don’t know. Björk kept saying that she did not want to do the film, right from the beginning. It was ridiculous. I wanted to fire her. She screamed, “You can’t fire me”—it was all completely crazy. But somehow, this last scene when she is hung, I remember that very clearly, she didn’t want to see the gallows before at all-and then she played the scene extremely well. After that I said to her, when she was lying there, hyperventilating: could you maybe take out the second line of the dialogue and replace a certain word with another? Everybody thought, okay, now she will explode and die for real. But she didn’t say anything, we filmed it again-and she did it. Exactly right. She was really far out then, that wasn’t acting or feeling or whatever, but she was still, as a musician, completely in control.

Plagiarism and other diseases

January 4, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Plagiarism, Teaching English | 10 Comments

I’ve eventually started reading and marking film reviews – and after four only, I already have sufficient material to make my point about microplagiarism. How nice – and how exasperating 😦

Outside it’s still looking dim and unlikely to change over the next days. Still no snow below 1300 meters.If we had some snow, at least the light would be brighter. Cannot wait to get out of this fog hole. Normally, in the early days of January, the Fön wind comes up to chase away the snow and clouds for a couple of days. But what if there’s never been any? Hard to say.

And I feel a cold coming up. I need something to cheer me up today.

Will Cute Overload be able to do the trick?


Nah, I don’t like canines anyway. Ugly mug.

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