Turn it in Dot We

Jatinder Dhillon, Hannah D’souza, Emma Abdjalieva, Rebekah Parker, John Bul, and Elvin Wyly

Abstract: In 2011, the Turnitin.com® plagiarism detection service processed 60 million papers submitted by students, comparing each submission to more than 220 million other students’ papers, at least 90 thousand publications, and more than 20 billion web pages. Turnitin.com®’s parent company, iParadigms, LLC, also markets iThenticate®, which promises to “verify originality of scholarly & professional writing” of “Researchers & Research Departments” and “Ph.D. & Masters Candidates,” and will doubtless red-flag every word I’m quoting from their web site. But what if Mark Twain had it right when he declared, “There is no such thing as a new idea,” that “We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope” to get “new and curious combinations”? (cited in Paine [1868-1935], entry CCLI, December 7, 1906). What happens when the human mental kaleidoscope is hijacked by powerful corporate systems derived from “algorithms designed to detect regularities in large databases of brain waves,” (Barrie, 2008, p. 18) and used to “standardize” and “normalize” the human subjectivities of writing, reading, assessment, and trust? In this paper, we consider the implications of an expanding digital noosphere for the ethics, epistemology, and future prospects of Michael Curry’s (1996) history of “geographical practice and the written word.”

Vancouver, BC, November 2012