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.

The Semantic Web 35/40

April 3, 2007 at 6:28 am | Posted in Web 2.0 | 1 Comment
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I’m in the process of adding a Semantic Web paragraph to the paper I’m revising at the moment. Here are some basic definitions that are useful to everyone on the web (who cares just a little about the technology he is using):

The Semantic Web is a web of data. There is lots of data we all use every day, and its not part of the web. I can see my bank statements on the web, and my photographs, and I can see my appointments in a calendar. But can I see my photos in a calendar to see what I was doing when I took them? Can I see bank statement lines in a calendar?

Why not? Because we don’t have a web of data. Because data is controlled by applications, and each application keeps it to itself.

The Semantic Web is about two things. It is about common formats for integration and combination of data drawn from diverse sources, where on the original Web mainly concentrated on the interchange of documents. It is also about language for recording how the data relates to real world objects. That allows a person, or a machine, to start off in one database, and then move through an unending set of databases which are connected not by wires but by being about the same thing.

[Source: Semantic Web by Ivan Herman for the World Wide Web Consortium]

The Semantic Web will bring structure to the meaningful content of Web pages, creating an environment where software agents roaming from page to page can readily carry out sophisticated tasks for users. [..]

The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. [..]

For the semantic web to function, computers must have access to structured collections of information and sets of inference rules that they can use to conduct automated reasoning. Artificial-intelligence researchers have studied such systems since long before the Web was developed. Knowledge representation, as this technology is often called, is currently in a state comparable to that of hypertext before the advent of the Web: it is clearly a good idea, and some very nice demonstrations exist, but it has not yet changed the world. It contains the seeds of important applications, but to realize its full potential it must be linked into a single global system. [..]

Adding logic to the Web—the means to use rules to make inferences, choose courses of action and answer questions—is the task before the Semantic Web community at the moment. A mixture of mathematical and engineering decisions complicate this task. The logic must be powerful enough to describe complex properties of objects but not so powerful that agents can be tricked by being asked to consider a paradox. Fortunately, a large majority of the information we want to express is along the lines of “a hex-head bolt is a type of machine bolt,” which is readily written in existing languages with a little extra vocabulary. [..]

The Semantic Web will enable machines to COMPREHEND semantic documents and data, not human speech and writings. [..]

The Semantic Web, in naming every concept simply by a URI, lets anyone express new concepts that they invent with minimal effort. Its unifying logical language will enable these concepts to be progressively linked into a universal Web. This structure will open up the knowledge and workings of humankind to meaningful analysis by software agents, providing a new class of tools by which we can live, work and learn together.

[Source: “The Semantic Web. A new form of Web content that is meaningful to computers will unleash a revolution of new possibilities“.
By Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler and Ora Lassila. Scientific American, May 2001.]

Visual Enactment of Web 2.0

February 13, 2007 at 8:21 am | Posted in Web 2.0, Webfilm, Youtube | 5 Comments
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A colleague forwarded this to me: A brief explanation of Web 2.0, provided by someone in charge of Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University. Being a technology lecturer herself (my colleague), she missed the importance of technology in this bit. I’m not too fond of the Youtube title The Machine is Us/ing Us, as I am currently bored by both the luddite and the transhumanist stance (but I guess I would resent any stance towards the web 2.0 hype, for the sake of being one). Also, it’s becoming fairly buzzwordy at the end. Nonethless, I thought it was pretty cool how they used text interfaces to bring across their message.

At least it doesn’t have the bad musical score of the first post by jutecht to which it is a video response.

N.B. This is my #100 post on this blog!

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