Please consider submitting to Originality in a Digital Culture, a special issue of NANO: New American Notes Online.
Originality as an ideal has occupied an august position in American cultural history, from Emerson’s injunction to “[N]ever imitate” to Apple’s “Think different” campaign. Yet the very proliferation of coffee mugs, bumper stickers, fridge magnets, and tablet cases bearing Emerson’s words and Apple’s slogan shows that not only objects but even the ideas they bear can be disseminated en masse. And in a digital culture in which information can be shared more quickly, easily, and cheaply every day, how do we—scholars, teachers, critics, readers—conceive of originality and theorize its value?
In popular practices of sharing, information is disseminated as widely as possible through networks of others. Influence can be quantified according to measures such as the number of likes, shares, reposts, retweets, subscriptions, downloads, and favorites. Scholarship has an analogous statistical method: tracking the number of citations and downloads of published scholarship.
But while scholarship relies on carefully edited systems of attribution, social media tends to embrace promiscuity. What are the consequences of wide-ranging, even haphazard sharing practices on the value of original work as commodity? If, as Stewart Brand once stated and others have adopted as a rallying cry, “Information wants to be free,” what becomes of the practice of original research? (Less quoted is Brand’s preceding line: “information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable.”) Recent disputes with Amazon over e-book prices prompted a letter of protest from nearly a thousand authors, ranging from Stephen Colbert to Mary Karr to Stephen King. Writers have skin in this game, after all—as novelist Jonathan Franzen writes, “When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.”
Those of us who teach must also reflect on these issues and how they inform our praxis. As students outsource the maintenance of content knowledge to the cloud, how do we revise our pedagogical strategies, either to adapt to this shift in students’ intellectual habits, or to ameliorate its effects? How do we teach originality (as both skill and ethos) to students unaccustomed to developing ideas in solitude?
In this special issue, we seek critical reflections or multimodal notes (up to 3,500 words) that sketch new ways of understanding originality in contemporary print and digital culture. Topics may include, but are not limited to, originality and its relationship to the following:
- inspiration in collaborative relationships
- historical views of collaboration and/or intellectual independence
- the ethics of attribution in a collaborative environment
- ownership of shared content
- anonymity and legality
- Snapchat, Yik Yak, and other evanescent media
- meme generators
- fan fiction
- human tissue research and gene patenting
- pedagogical emphases on research vs. the generation of original ideas
- appropriation vs. plagiarism
- open-access journals and research funding
- open-source software and authorship
- the Amazon-Hachette author dispute
- valuations of research
- intellectual property, publication, and royalties
Direct questions to the Special Issue co-editors: Tara Robbins Fee [tfee[at]washjeff.edu] and Samuel B. Fee [sam[at]washjeff.edu]. For questions about video, audio, or image usage, please contact NANO: editornano[at]citytech.cuny.edu. NANO uses modified MLA (Modern Language Association) formatting and style.
Submission style guidelines: http://www.nanocrit.com/submissions-information/style-guide-nano/
Keywords: Each author is asked to submit 5 keywords to accompany their submission.
Schedule: Deadlines concerning the special issue to be published in NANO:
March 13, 2016: Submission deadline (inquiries about potential topics prior to this deadline are welcomed by the issue editors)
May 2016: Complete comments and peer review
June 2016: Begin pre-production