The premise for writing in today’s age sure is on the brink of mass evolution. The nearly unlimited amount of knowledge available online makes finding information easier than ever.
Specifically, I believe the research paper is beginning to evolve into a more collaborative piece of writing. In high school when I wrote my research paper for a large chunk of my grade, the teacher was looking for about half sourced information, and half “original” content. In “Uncreative Writing: Redefining Language and Authorship in the Digital Age” Maria Popova cites Mark Twain in saying that technically all ideas we have are derived consciously and unconsciously from other courses. Having said this, what content in my research paper could really be considered “original”?
My original content is obviously subject to my own biases, but what about my outside sources? Shouldn’t they be entirely impartial? This is unlikely as in “Don’t Be Fooled: Use the SMELL Test to Separate Fact from Fiction Online” John McManus says, “humans are incapable of objectivity.” Further, he says, “Bias begins with self-interest… we are all self-interested information providers.” If both the original and outside content are subject to personal bias, shouldn’t there be a more grey area between the two, instead of a thick black line?
Integrating both original content and outside support into one paper then becomes more parallel than what the curriculum was calling for in my high school. In theory, we are not creating anything new of our own, but more pulling pieces from the outside to get our point across. In maria Papova’s writing, she mentions Professor Goldsmith from UPenn who encourages his students to plagiarism and steal other people’s information and put it into a platform more usable for the student. Goldsmith believes that by using other people’s work and compiling it into our own, we are being creative in our expression of those ideas.
Upon first reading this Goldsmith’s (a creative writing teacher) ideology behind his class’ writing, I found the idea quite absurd, and largely uncreative. However, when I looked over it again and began to ponder the idea, it sounded like a surprisingly brilliant way of changing to the mold of our digital age. As a result, I thought of my high school search paper where I tediously attempted to separate my own content and outside support, trying to keep the two even. When, if we used Goldsmith’s idea in schools, we would surely be on to something grand, an explosion of knowledge due to actually utilizing all of the information available to us, instead of forcing “original” content.
Cathy Davidson moves forward with the collaborative writing idea in “We Cam’t Ignore the Influence of Digital Technologies”. Cathy believes Wikipedia should be utilized in schools because it is the best tool for writing since Oxford’s dictionary. Moving toward these collaborative knowledge bases for researching information makes doing that research paper much easier. Davidson says there is about as much inaccuracy in Wikipedia as there is in other sources such as books, which cannot be corrected- but Wikipedia can! Instead of preventing students from utilizing this great tool, schools should encourage it. Davidson and Goldsmith are innovators in using the information available on the Internet for the growth of knowledge. In the end, isn’t this the goal of education? To gain knowledge? keeping rigid in education like my senior year’s research paper is not the way to go- education has a bright future ahead of it if it chooses to utilize the great tools which have been waiting to be tapped in to.