The Connection Between Plagiarism and Technophobia

The internet has long been championed as the place "just anyone" could write and be read by others rather than excluded by a lack of status, authority, cash, or all three. If anything, scholarship about access bemoaned the slow progress of internet access for all, citing economic and cultural barriers to the information, interest-group communities, and writing venues with real audiences the web can enable. At the same time, there is a flip side to this desired access for all: some who privilege more traditional writing venues (top-down mass media, i.e., traditional print or broadcast media, teacher-centered vs. student-centered education) view the open flow of information the web provides with a more critical eye, asking, “Who are these people? What right do they have to say that? And, wait a minute! Wasn't that first said by Smith-Smyth in 1862?” They are more apt to see the open exchange of information on the web as a citing crisis, even an entrepreneurial crisis where standard paper-paper topics are bought and sold.

And they have a point. The internet does enable dishonesty for the ethically-impaired. On the other hand, even though the free flow of information the web provides can enable those inclined to be dishonest, it is also true that the not-so-tech-savvy past had its file drawers of shared papers and ethically-challenged scholars who would custom-write for pay. The internet did not invent that particular piece of enterprise.

Even if plagiarism is actually more prevalent rather than merely easier to catch (the free-flow of information works for instructors as well), the increased fear of plagiarism and the larger part such fear plays in life inside and outside academia hampers the classroom climate needed for students to effectively learn academic writing. This webtext examines the intertwining of plagiarism and digital spaces through use of metaphor. In order to do so, it first seeks definitions for both plagiarism and technophobia followed by an analysis of fear metaphors for both. Next, it looks at how an exaggerated fear of plagiarism can negatively affect pedagogical or administrative choices. Plagiarism detection services are also examined from the viewpoint of how they can be seen as either an answer to fears or, at the same time, a fear generator. Finally, writing pedagogies are proposed that avoid fighting one fear with another.

Note: The splash page has links to five interstitial scenes. Next: Defining, Part One.