Philosophy on Plagiarism: Leaving the Commons Open

In their preface to Commonwealth, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri refer to the “common” as everything in our material world: “—the air, the water, the fruits of the soil, and all nature’s bounty” that we share together as humans; but they also state, “We consider the common also and more significantly those results of social production that are necessary for social interaction and further production, such as knowledges, languages, codes, information, affects, and so forth” (viii). Hardt and Negri’s stance on what constitutes the common is very much aligned with what I consider research and information utilized in the composition classroom. Our writing practices involve both social interaction (conversation) and social production (composition). Nonetheless, students engage with the texts in their own discourse communities in ways that directly oppose that of the university’s. Because the university is a space where specific rules and regulations guide how we interact with our texts, students are positioned in a verifiably tenuous position of mitigating between legality and propriety.

Let me explain. When we consider texts or information as property, we assume they are “owned” by an individual or an institution. Hardt and Negri further elaborate, “With the blinders of today’s dominant ideologies, however, it is difficult to see the common, even though it is all around us. Neoliberal government policies throughout the world have sought in recent decades to privatize the common, making cultural products—for example, information, ideas, and even species of animals and plants—into private property” (viii). This view is how we have appropriated research and information within the academic institution. In many ways, this positions students in discursive opposition to what they know about knowledge. Students come to the university interacting with texts in a way more reflective of their social relationships. Most of them are aware of the normalized practice in the Internet called file sharing—a practice heavily censored by the invention of copyright infringement. Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, proclaims,

The century ended with the copyright middlemen pushing through a new law in the United States called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. For the first time, the copyright industry managed to introduce intermediary liability — as in making people liable in a court of law for merely carrying a signal which is broadcast by somebody else. Just like if you put up a public wall, and would become responsible for posters that other people put up on it: Not sane anywhere, but this isn’t about sanity, it is about regulatory captures and enshrining the continued profit of monopolists into books of law.  (Falkvinge 75-6).

Perhaps it is easy to see how Falkvinge’s conception of copyright mirrors that of the academic institution’s view on citation. What does it mean that many of our students are aware of these practices of culture from the Internet—where access to information is nearly seamless?

Again, it is not terribly difficult to see that many students do not understand what it means to cite authors of texts and give credit where “credit is due”. Their worlds are that of speech (where we rarely site discourse origins) and hyperlinks. Yet, the institution expects them to come ready to interact under the presupposition that citation is a given. When students fail to know this, they face punishment for plagiarism. This way of thinking, on the part of the institution, is a question of ethics and literacy.

Kathryn Valentine tells us in her essay “Plagiarism as Literacy Practice: Recognizing and Rethinking Ethical Binaries several things much like I have reiterated from Falkvinge and Hardt and Negri: “What I would like to suggest is that plagiarism is a literacy practice; plagiarism is something that people do with reading and writing” (89). She continues, “Given that plagiarism involves social relationships, attitudes, and values as much as it involves texts and rules of citation, I think that we can better recognize the work that our students present to us if we also recognize that this work involves negotiating social relationships, attitudes, and values” (90). I would like to formally pronounce that my philosophy on plagiarism involves doing just this. I feel it is imperative that we understand how our students respond and interact with texts equally as much as the university expects them to know the rules of citation.

If we are encouraging our students to become literate to all the functions of academic life, we must be aware of whom they are as they walk through our doors. This imperative is what Valentine calls the “work of negotiation identity for students” (90). Students face acquiring literacy of academic discourse—which includes citation practices and standards; why would we not work to be literate of the practices of file sharing and open commons they bring with them? Those of us in Composition know that our world is comprised of many discourses meshing and clashing together at every moment. It may certainly be in our best interests to help students negotiate with their acculturation to the university by negotiating our own conceptions of what it means to acquire knowledge.

I am not arguing that we abolish citation practices within the institution. However, I am pushing forth an agenda that repositions our understanding of our students’ identities. We can begin to understand them by becoming literate of their own uses of texts in their lives. Sharon Crowley asked us to do a similar thing in her “Ethic of Service” in the Journal of Advanced Composition: “Writing on the other hand, names the practice that we study and teach. This is not just a matter of switching terminology, but of thinking of our students as writers, rather than persons in need of linguistic fluency or corrected habits of punctuation” (237). To this, I would like to add citation to the list. Crowley’s ethical vision reposition students as writers. My assertion here is to encourage us to think of students as thinkers as well. That means that we become literate to the practices they employ to gain common knowledge in their lives.


Works Cited

Crowley, Sharon. “Composition’s Ethic of Service, the Universal Requirement, and the Discourse of Student Need.” Journal of Advanced Composition 15.2 (1994), 227-239., 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.

Falkvinge, Rick. “History of Copyright.” No Safe Harbor: Essays About Pirate Politics. United States Pirate Party, Creative Commons, n.d. pdf, 68-76.

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Commonwealth. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.

Valentine, Kathryn. “Plagiarism as Literacy Practice: Recognizing and Rethinking Ethical Binaries.” CCC 58.1 (Sept. 2006), 89-109. National Council of Teachers of English. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.


What is curriculum?

Like any term we’ve attempted to define in this class, “curriculum” can be muddied until it doesn’t make sense anymore. I can also say that simply saying that does little for actual discussion. Okay, so terms are ambiguous; language is complex; meaning is subjective ad infinitum.

What becomes more productive relies upon taking a good look around. When I think of curriculum, I think of pedagogy—of what it is I am teaching. This grounds my discussion away from ambiguity, but it also sets up new complications.

Because I am teaching composition and I am very much able to look around at what it is I am doing, my understanding of curriculum begets the Text of my class. Just last week, we read a piece by James Porter: “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community”. Teaching this text highlighted the larger Text of what I consider curriculum.

Let me elaborate, and make sense for once.

Porter’s text deals with Text, and what the difference between one capitalized letter can be. He says, “Examining texts ‘intertextually’ means looking for ‘traces,’ the bits and pieces of Text which writers or speakers borrow and sew together to create discourse” (Porter 88). Porter gets out how our entire world is made up of all this text, which makes up the entirety of our lives—Text. I took this statement, and I ran with it, pedagogically speaking.

Since Porter is a bit dense, full of Foucault and what-not, I decided to embed texts from my discourse community to show my students several things: that intertextuality is a part of our everyday experiences; that we participate in its making all the time; and that to do so contributes to the living Text that is our lives. So very Derridean, ah.

I was reading Porter, getting my lesson plan for the day started. As I was doing that, I was checking both of my twitter feeds to see what was going on, and answer @ replies from some fellow rhetor friends in weird Twitter[1]. That was when some really great intertextuality went down. @SuicideGirls asked Twitter to participate in a hashtag game tagging #TittySprinkles to tweets:  Considering they have over 161, 000 followers, this took off pretty quickly. But, as you can see, that tweet morphed: This is a meme photo that turned up as a shift from one that had been circling ever since the last Presidential debate (which I had taught the day before): Before we discussed the meme’s morphing, however, I showed my class this video that explains what TittySprinkles are: This allowed us to see the final shift in the hashtag’s life that night:

Through this discussion, my class was able to see how my discourse community ruptures the Text of our lives by contributing to it, by making meaning. Our culture has the power to take something humorous and noncommittal, and then turn it into a very serious, very significant speech act. I advised them that this last turn of meaning was what we call rhetoric.

But what does this say of curriculum? Of teaching? My implementation of an intertextual artifact through its stages of being permitted me to see that my curriculum is the Text. The Text is whatever happens to be living at the very moment in our lives. This does not mean that I don’t teach anything “dead”, say a textbook. Quite the contrary. Porter’s piece is alive and well in Writing about Writing. All of us literature and creative writers know about literary present tense.

The Text is assuredly composed of pieces already written. Yet, the Text (for me at least) is also very much what is happening in the moments we are currently breathing. I found that students respond best—they understand the dense texts we must assign from our field—if they see them alive in their everyday. Putting the #TittySprinkles meme in context with our text made a new rupture in the Text.

My students learned that our lives are composed intertextually, but they learned something far greater, far more important. They learned that they have the chance to write into the Text and stop things like NDAA from affecting their lives. At least, that’s the text I’m writing.

[1] weird Twitter has been coined by Berkeley scholar Sebastian Benthall.




Black coals spin universes into extinction

there’s uni in universe

mass of moss



onto spectrums of itself

life made in void

here nothings die.


There is no collapse in here; universe is all there is.


and here we lie:

vessels on lines–

words in our speech.


the death is a silence we can only see.

“experience creates knowledge”

to die on a page

a library burial

where the masses welcome us into the stacks.


We are vulnerable utmost to our “selves”.


identity is authenticity;

agency inscribes our tombstones

well-intended ethcings

coffined between hardcovers.


Others will only see us by our names–

the deafening blows of our many.

How to Lose Friends and Win Interwebs: your self will self-deconstruct in one hour

It’s funny, the way life completely upheaves itself the moment you think you’ve finally found a niche. We all know how this is, but it never stops feeling new, or shocking us when it occurs.

Last night, life’s chasm found its way to me.

I’ve managed to keep my two twitter selves’ purposes separate for quite a long time. This is because their identities do different things. But the problem is weird twitter. I’m not necessarily pulling from @sbenthall’s clever definition (odd Darwin-esque moment where two academics, him and I, began using the same term at the same time, but anyway) except to say that in twitter, the fabric between the spaces of the spectrum is nonexistant:

normals ~ comedians ~ philosophical twitter ~ weird twitter ~ weirder twitter ~ deep twitter.

This is how I’ve come to know twitter in the years that I’ve spent learning its discourse, and subverting it. My two selves like to spend time halving this spectrum, yet sometimes ruptures occur. Like they will in any discourse. Last night, that is not what happened–well, not exactly.

Last night, I happened.

“Real me” on twitter has been relatively non self-disclosing about her work in twitter. She mostly kept it light. However, that is not always possible–as it is for any person. We tend to go deep. For me, going deep entails polemic, ethics, and a challenge to status quo discourse. Not even real me can remain Swiss year-round. This is why I have other me.

Other me, I’ve kept locked away from others. Not the others speaking in weirder and deep twitter, but from normal twitter. I am not ignorant. I knew long ago that my “real life” friends would never accept the part of myself that I am. So I separated them when I destroyed old me: @tumblesweed. When that happened, I felt free to embrace a side of me I fought with in silence. Other me could say what was on her mind, and not have to suffer any real life complications because of it. Her friends there understood her passion and her love for a healthier humanity.

But the real world did not. Does not.

Last night Leslie lost many of her “real” friends in a moment where she spoke from her heart. The discourse community of her tiny social life mixed with her discourse community of human rights work. They clashed horribly, painfully on all sides. People used words unforgivably cruel. And Leslie sat and watched without being able to do anything but speak. Speaking didn’t help. It killed.

Once the dust settled, there were firm lines set in the spectrum. Normal twitter was severed from “real self’s” life. That meant that all connection with people she actually sees in the everyday are gone.


That’s a good question. I know the answer. I’ve known the answer my whole life. It is a hurt no one should know. But we all do. We all hurt each other through language. Last night was evidence of that. Young girls are being hurt all over the world by speech acts of the cruelest kind: rape. Yet, the way we talk about these issues is a form of linguistic violence too. Our society has no means in which to discuss caring about heavy subjects–at least not in normal twitter or real life. This is why these things keep happening.

We hurt each other through words, and those words can be actually spoken, typed in twitter, or written onto the body by another’s. Language is not just scribed by pen or keyboard, but in everything we do. And that is why it is possible to hurt one another on so many levels. To say, “I like you, but I don’t want to know you on twitter” is to say one does not like who the person speaking is.

Is that not violence?

It isn’t if one thinks twitter isn’t real.

I don’t agree with that, personally, as someone who has jobs, friends, and the truest emotions recognizable attained via twitter. Not to mention the fact that these hurtful words shared in a place considered not real had very real life implications. But some people may still by the binary of digital dualism enough to placate things away. I am often a thing in cases like this. And that is why it is okay.

It is okay that some may not like either or one of my twitter selves. It is okay that I’m mostly hated by anyone who knows me personally ( real friends aside). Because I know what I’m doing is kind. Deconstructing language is serious business; but it is also very frightening to the modernists, *excuse me*, normals.

Sadly, there is no other way. When I say I study twitter, it is not an act of wasting my time as most would believe. Twitter is fully representative of the Internet as a whole, as well as life. Both are reflections of our world because both are man-made. There is no separation from humanity, or politics. Thus, I study who we are in a place where we are all very much collectively what we are: human. Not ironically, last night taught me that language in real life is of the most brutal kind. Alienation. Abandonment. and Absolution.

What is life but a flair for a good goodbye?

“everything in its time”

I hate the world that makes us paranoid. That which destroys our capacities.

We are built into our words and our fears. They hold us without letting go.

Yet, we are not warm. Trust, a fearful disguise. Sometimes so sincere, it hides in smiling eyes.

But we don’t. We cannot love, can we?

When all we need was never ours

for the having. So I may say that I yearn, and I need, with all the brazen deepness of my soul,

but it all means nothing here, even on my lips.

Because you cannot taste them. And I have reconciled the lie.

We bed our sins down softly, with inscribing fierceness.

Just enough, until the doubt of ourselves sinks itself in,

because we know no different.

Love, being that thing we could shelve.

Except it is the reason we live, and so it cannot live by a deny.

I tear these words into pieces, by the simple click of delete.

For what else can matter here, but the defeat of such speech?


Never undermine the power of a single, lone word. Even an emoticon conveys message. Every single utterance carries meaning to our recipient and thusly whoever that person reflects that linguistic force onto in dialogue next. Language was and is always “the things [we] carry”. We are never alone, or outside of our speech. Our utterances live on, especially after we meet our deaths. Depth is thought alive, forever alive. @axb21: “Textament.”


Give me the whipping breeze against the scraping mountain boughs, and kiss my eyelids (oh you did) with the sunset who names into twilight. When two people see one another as who they are to the other, they embody a mirror. Only through an other are these parts of us visible. Light haunts the shadow that lines my figure on this walk. It is permanent impermanence, your most tender grace captured in touched silence. I am alone now.

Resolve should be sublime; it should terrify the self; it should tremble the ground inside me. It should make me who I am.

I am a stealer of the ocean. I am a keeper of the telling tide. I am the Pacific’s letter coiled safely in glass-blown dynamite.

agency is a dirty word. cover me in it. both control each other. control is a relationship, acquiesced upon. put your mouth to my ears so i am deaf to everything but your kiss. @TinyNietzsche: “Lose the ties that bind.” spoken like a philosopher, felt like a hand. you are undulating reprimand. we thought less of the moon because it wasn’t the sun. then some of us reminded the others: we see more at night. @the_1st_rule: “exposure.” every dream is a speech forever unspeakable.




separation, the figment

synchronous, filament

tidings another word in place for another space.

is it rupture?

or voice?

vices of the tongue

we cannot answer with certainty

to agree with that is not conformity

if but to say

saying as saying goes

we make itself anew,

each time.

inescapable inside

haunts their need for the outside

all need wrapped in a smile

“i do not know of [this] that you know.”

but i’ll tell you later, when i speak with the other, that i have read

i understanding better then.

we make it each day

a moment, you said once.

a moment always living

whether or not we are not

it is right here. touch, a reminder.

faces only we can be


the only possible i accept

still. races down my intent.

libidinal, the only true rhetoric.


Then there is, and it is. If an ‘is’ could be an ellipsis drawn on the ever-dawning of time.

a word written on my being.

my being, one unwriteable word.

you hear my fingertips

its maddening


the taste of language.

to feel another speaking

hear one another dreaming

the touch of thought

sensory conversations

why else, do you wonder, we react to words?

For the nothing of them.

we make them into themselves

thus, ourselves

an etching palate

did i miss a spot?

i tremble in your tone

it makes me who i am

brevity is the graceful assault of the genuine

a voice grasping me at my sides


the endless drawing of a piano’s imagination

share it with me?


Rusty: “Love is having an entire conversation with one look.”


let me stand nude in your narrative

poetry is the caressing of my inner hymns

bitten, until it begins

you are the translation

scribing the curves of my shoulder blades with your palms

kiss your story down my spine

pulse’s reflection

and sleep.


warming internal, eternal a spark

leapt upon the darkness. I held the

line where light met night in

softness unadorned

in the night, the lines between us

became the texture we write

ourselves by. the space we are

most alive.

lips extinguish what burns the

dawn. in nothingness, that is what

is there.

you, once a mere poem breathing

into broken lines, now a power no

hands have held.


writing the same poem with the same results.

nothing stops

idle hands

wind calling in absent

letter of resignation

taking up residence in the unseen’s darkness

arms wrapped around a tree’s shuddering entrapment

leaves leaning against my face with empathetic absolution

walk until daylight

it may never come.

walking on.


Evening takes its final glance.

I don’t own anything.

I own nothing.

The most expensive possessions are what doesn’t exist.

keeping them close

fulfilling air

a smile to the insulting

grant-taking eyes

liberal denial

and puppy cuddles.

there was no knife on my person.

you bring the music with you?

it’s all in second-person, but nothing always matters

The story needs you.

I’m a poor substitute

flip over

them knuckles be light.

two narratives, one story.

eternal protagonist, and the most loyal of best friends, back again.

sometimes it’s nostalgia.

sometimes it’s that thump thing.

time for those bones

the man on the bridge, under the aged streetlight, a cracked photographer’s lens, purple imprint, he has heard me every time.

he came looking for me, promises in hand, written by a many others’ pen, made anew in a voice I had already known…

the voice so nearly a memory, tears running slowly down my cheeks.

he sent me into the night

and I’ve spend my ever-since searching to pay him back.

the way we can love paths we never cross

because those footprints carry the purist of hearts

I’m a thousand hugs away from you

there have been friends, and then there’s you

we know well how to hold on to escape.

because it’s dark green.


Saying any language has no flaws is resigning ourselves to finality, death.

Languages are as alive as we are.

“Taste my language”

words go through me

stopping only when they reach the place in me where they’ll never leave.

internal, my heart. unreadable, as fiction.

@shynymoo: “Echo and Reverberation”

read your way to me,



write me toward you.


~@leslieheme: “I wish it was you.”

I am a student

“What is a student?”
I’m placing this question at the forefront of my post so that I stay on track unlike my last post. Here I feel like I will reach into the esoteric realm no matter. I’m starting to wonder if I have read too much, and now all of my thinking can directly relate to something/someone I read somewhere. Yesterday I was driving down to Legoland, and I realized that I really can quote obscure Marxist theorists at random if I need them to make some point on Twitter. It has been thanks to my being a student, and a student of Dr. Carlson’s no less.
So there it is, I’m pulling from another text I’ve read to answer this—somewhere far from this last Winter in Rowan’s 657. We read a piece by Annie DiPardo, and another that I can’t recall the name of, and both left me very much aware that we are all students—everyone, of life. Sure, I threw down a somewhat philosophical cliché, but truly, we are.
The older I get, I begin to wonder: do we get to a point where we can actually say to ourselves (with conviction, mind you): “That’s it! I know all I need. I’ve learned it all!” (whatever “it all” is) I think I would seriously worry about an individual who could say this.
That being said, my status as an eternal student comes to me forcefully as I constantly face the fact that I am teaching students. I have woken up every morning somewhere between 4 and 5 am because I cannot stop thinking about what/how/and who I’m teaching. These thoughts wake me no matter how tired I am. They obsess inside me because my passion overwhelms my senses. Had I truly felt that I was in some teacher role of authority, I don’t think I’d worry over my days in class like I do, constantly trying to improve my methods.
These methods completely depend upon my students. What obsesses me is that I teach them the things I feel matter in college: agency, confidence, knowledge of themselves as writers, knowledge of the expectations of them from the institution, and the lines they can walk in-between. Like Mary so aptly told me once: “You cannot give agency.” Her statement shocked me because I hadn’t realized that my own utterance displayed my inability to translate what it is I really feel I am doing.
Of course we cannot give agency. But do our students know they have it? Perhaps I must remind them. This is what I try to do every day in class. Am I doing it well? Doubtful. I am trying, however, and this is what calms me when I get to obsessing. I’m studying my teacher self; more importantly: I’m studying my students.
This is not in the objective sense, because I don’t feel I take much objectively these days (not even sure that’s possible after all of the theory I’ve absorbed). I literally ask them what they want. I read the texts in this class searching for methods that enable them to remember they’re humans with voices, citizens capable of employing speech to make meaning, and I fail with flourish. So I know what not to do, mostly.
As I’m on the cusp of having my students turn in their first essay answering the question: “Who Am I?”, I may have a better grasp of who they are, as students. Me, I’m gonna keep studying.