Revolution Lullabye

May 28, 2009

Johnson-Eilola and Sebler, Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. “Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage.” Computers and Composition 24 (2007): 375-403.

Johnson-Eilola and Selber argue for a problem-solving view of writing as assemblage rather than a performance and product-oriented understanding of composing. They place the concept of assemblage in conversation with discussions of plagiarism and originality, both which would undervalue and even criminalize assemblage (remix, collage) writing. They show how practices of assemblage are common in other fields and contexts, like website design, architecture, blogging, and institutional and workplace writing. Writing as assemblage, a postmodern understanding of creativity, limits the ethical and legal panic over plagiarism and the sloppy, unnecessary paraphrasing and allows students to use all available resources (and acknowledge those sources) to make their argument and solve problems.

Quotable Quotes

“If we take away that hierarchy, we remove the impulse for students to lie about it. If a piece of the assemblage is valued primarily for its function rather than its place in a hierarcy, students are no longer pushed so hard to hide the citations for their sources” (400). – students are afraid to have too much of their text in quotes or cited because then it doesn’t look like their original thought is in there (even though they selected, assembled.)

“By untangling the academic function from the legal function [of citation and paraphrase], we open up assemblages and remixes to examination in terms of our academic and pedagogical goals” (399).

“What if we put the emphasis on problem-solving, originality be damned?” (380).

“creating assemblages requires the same rhetorical sophistication as any text” (391).

Notable Notes

Christopher Alexander pattern language – these design patterns are “an ongoing conversation between local and global” and “The possible rhetorical moves of a pattern language are a reservoir, drawn on by an architect to address problems in specific contexts, remixed into an assemblage. The assemblage works at the intersection of principle and concrete.” (395).

selection, choice, local context

change in assessment practices to question whether the assemblage solves problems (instead of the Romantic understanding of single original author)

students are taught this hierarchy – others’ work and words can only be used as support and are secondary to their own original thoughts

21st century remix culture is all around us

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