The problematic of plagiarism, fairly discussed in an educational environment between teachers and students both as a warning and responsibility, merits to be analyzed from a different angle as to establish the role of multiple factors that not only include the digital age. In an attempt, therefore, to answer the question “How does the digital age influence plagiarism and cheating?”, my perspective as a student has brought this essay to evaluate the digital era in counterpart to a reality which will be revealed further on and referred to, for the moment, as the traditional confinement. To use words as creativity, spaces of production, crashing systems and updates will lead the following approach to plagiarism.OEZGCZ1It is merely not the question of addressing the issues of the so-called millennials, emerged in the technological network of the online web, but rather what has been left behind. In reference to our pixelated, noisy, and bustling dreamscapes which tend to disappear and reappear on the reflexive surface of our black screens, it is not the intention to romanticize our digital era and deny the accessibility to habits of plagiarism. Nor is it intended, however, to solely reflect upon discrepancies between youth and the “back in our days…” speech which withholds the ultimate trend to condemn the utilization of social networks and digital platforms. Plagiarism, in this context, will serve as an indicator of a repercussion that has long admitted to being transcending from the new, and not admitted to be emanating from the traditional. To be more specific, plagiarism, as defined by some teachers, is the act to take your professor for a mindless being who is not able to recognize the difference between a written text, full of obvious grammar mistakes, and the perfectly written excerpts, using words we often can’t pronounce, can very likely turn sour as the act proves to be, at times, unsuccessful. But why do it if that is the case and certainly with the many risks involved? The reasons can be multiple, but it would be preferable to focus on only one. The lack of creativity, not understood as the innate intuition of personal creativity, but as the promotion of its production in the academic environment. And so, what has been left behind would be, in this sense, an institution of education.

A space for production of supposed creativity, underlined by the sub-text of regulations and impositions is recreated through, notably, the studies that precede post-secondary education. Social networks of the online web and the uncountable resources it contains are consequently the absolute space and establishment for creativity that the institution of education cannot provide. It has become an alternative to the traditional who deemed, in a profoundly rooted stigma, creative writings on the web unfit for the academic environment. Nonetheless, students can find writings both worthy of creative and academic intellect and these writings correspond to the original meaning of knowledge. In this sense, an act of giving and of producing for the minds of the world. These writings, most importantly, are often based upon critical thinking which the institutions of education for childhood and adolescence insufficiently uses or practices.OEZGCZ1-2However, this does not completely defend students from committing an act of plagiarism because primary and secondary educational institutions have not provided them the means and the teaching, such as the tool of critical thinking, to reach or produce creative writings. It is of common comprehension, that once critical thinking skills achieved and personal literary creative productions available, that it becomes an individual choice to seek and perpetrate habits of plagiarism. It is arguable, furthermore, that it is important to understand the weakness of the educational system that I described as a facilitator to the existence of plagiarism. Hence, plagiarism is rooted in social discourse and not in the technology itself: “the Web is a fabulous resource that no student or scholar can ignore. Somehow, though, we have to convince people that learning requires more than high-speed connections and a good search engine”.

Preventing plagiarism maybe, then, implies to update an educational system that has failed to support new social generations continuously searching for creativity outside of themselves rather than inside. Like are computers seem to need an outstanding number of updates, social institutions maybe need the same. Even when those updates are rejected, the users are faced with the inevitable reality of their beloved computer gradually fading to a dysfunctional metal corpse. It has, in fact, become inevitable that the systems of academic creativity have “crashed” and are in need of a more recent version of the program. With awareness and comprehension in mind, nonetheless, it is inevitable that the proposition of a solution, such as this one, would be tedious and not readily available. With no offensive strategy to battle technology with technology or strategies to beat online users at their own games to offer, it would be rather the cause of plagiarism, in the context of the digital era, that should be aimed. The formation of a new kind of teaching, embracing the online web as a portal to creativity as well as embracing the effort to train the cognitive and abstract minds of students, would serve as a deconstruction of the barrier which withholds creativity from circulation from the within to the outside. The teaching and the encouragement of the practice of critical thinking, in all context, such as critical media literacy, most importantly from the beginning of childhood, should be one of the particular tools to release the creative functions of the mind.OEZGCZ1-1What has led this analysis to its conclusion, when discussion plagiarism in terms of creativity and the spaces offered for its productions in systems directed by prescribed educational methods, was a need to speak of the context in which takes place the digital era. To imagine the colorful flow of unique writings, directed in an equal current between the individual and the broader community found on the Web, can possibly only be achieved if plagiarism is understood by that context and not only by the digital tools that allow it to be taken into action. Quite simply, it is to understand the consequence of the relationship between the digital and the traditional on plagiarism and cheating rather than solely the digital age.

I am a third year undergraduate student in the honour’s bachelor program in Anthropology along with a minor in psychology at the University of Ottawa. I enrolled in this program both by passion and by a strong desire to counter social discourses, through research. Thus, following the completion of my bachelor’s degree, I intend to follow with a master’s degree and a doctorate.
Chloé Desjardins
An Unconventional Essay on Plagiarism: The Digital Age in its Traditional Confinement

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