Monday, March 28, 2011

Stealing: Defined (300 words, course-specific entry)

One of the topics for this week is "stealing, defined."

Now that we've reached the midpoint and just past it, I want to move is into thinking about research and how we use others' words and ideas. It's one thing for me to talk about plagiarism as theft; a completely different thing to have students put it into sanctioned practice.

The first think I'm asking for this week is that each student steals two sentences from a classmate. In this instance, we're going to give credit for them because that is appropriate. Later, we won't be so thoughtful or honest.

Teaching plagiarism--or, more specifically, the importance of avoiding plagiarism--is one of the toughest parts of the job for me. On the one hand, I believe that borrowed work should be credited. On the other, well, we are an increasingly collaborative society.

A couple of examples of this that I find most compelling and telling are Wikipedia, of course, and Found magazine.

Wikipedia is a fascinating example of true collaboration in action--together, we know more than we can possibly know individually and nowhere that I know of is this more clearly demonstrated. Of course, we occasionally know things wrong and that too is demonstrated here. I admit to being intrigued by our ability to shape knowledge in this large and public way; in this anonymous way. When we credit Wikipedia, we're kind of crediting an unknown collective. It's terribly unacademic of me, I know, but when I have questions, that's often my starting point--sometimes, I just want to answer Commuter Son's question such as one from this weekend: "Mom, what was the Enlightenment" and Wikipedia does that just fine. (The Enlightenment, as I now know, was also called the Age of Reason and largely relied on reason and scientific observation. What I don't know is why CS asked me this.)

Found magazine, which as far is I can tell is now mostly-defunct, was/is a product of our collective that is largely unattributed. Found bits of writing such as grocery lists, love letters and notes to home are/were organized in ways that create meanings extending beyond the individual item. The collected notes and effluvia had a kind of gestalt that could only come from a collective.

So as we're heading into the last brave portion of our semester, we'll be focusing on items stolen, and things found. Our goal in all of this is to think about ownership--who owns what, and how can we, any of us individually, claim knowledge as proprietary.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Carlos I (300 words)

It's been a long time coming, but I think I'm finally a New Yorker.

For the first 18 months or so, I would find myself out and about--driving somewhere, walking through a parking lot--and confused by the vast array of New York license plates, or other references to the State of New York. It took a second or two to sink in that, no, I'm a New Yorker these days and all of these plates are not, in fact, as odd as I think they are.

Some point during the last 3 months, that stopped. I'm not surprised to find myself here; I'm taking it for granted. Funny thing is, though, I can't decide whether taking it for granted is a good thing because it means I'm settled in, or whether it's a bad thing because it means I've become complacent.

I've said many times before that I never pictured myself living in New York. On my big list of "places I want to live some day" it hovered right around number 36--between Oklahoma and South Dakota so when I accepted my position and moved here nobody was more surprised than I.

I shouldn't have been.

One of our dogs, Carlos, was a roundabout rescue whose story I'll save for another post. What's important to this one is that we were driving along the New York Thruway (which I thought was all there was to the state until moving here) when we got the call that Carlos was in trouble and we needed to rescue him.

Commuter Dad, when he was here last weekend, walked in and said hello to Carlos then stopped and looked around as though something had just clicked. "You know the rest area just up the Thruway from our exit?"


"That's where we were when we got the call about Carlos. He's the one who picked New York. Now it all makes sense."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Free topic (Shut up and put your money where your mouth is)

I'm in my office on a normal Tuesday afternoon. The sun is shining; the air seeping in around the cracks in my windows is cold; Bob Schneider’s “40 Dogs” plays softly from my laptop.

I’m reading an article about Governor Cuomo’s funding cuts for special schools.

Sounds drift in from the Commons:

Thomas a’Beckett

Blood typing

You’re welcome

The insistent beep of the copier begging for paper. It feels like I’m living in a poem; one about postmodern noise and meaning.

Punctuating it all is Cuomo’s insistence that
“We spend too much, we tax too much…you cannot spend more than you make” (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle).

I would not want to be Cuomo. Not now, not ever. I don’t have the answers; instead I’m racked with questions like “what DO we cut?” and “Which special interest group wins?” Because in our fragmented society, we are all special interests.

Comma splice?

The “t” in the equation represents time unless

How are ya?
The pound of the stapler; staccato handiwork

Bob Schneider becomes Katy Perry with the imploring demand to shut up and put our money where our mouths are and I think, yeah.