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Book: Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class

Chapter: 17. Mashing, Modding, and Memeing: Writing for a New Generation of University Students

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27782


Students in contemporary composition classes need to understand both copyright law and conventions of academic honesty (especially since most contemporary composing practices involve both copying and reusing existing materials and the necessity to attribute those materials to their sources). At the same time, they need to know the difference between the two, and to understand when and where it is appropriate to apply these different rules of “textual ownership” (Spigelman, 2000). Finally, they need to be given the opportunity to explore how both copyright laws and conventions of academic writing are the products of certain historical conditions and relationships of power and the opportunity to engage in critical debates regarding their aims and principles and their contemporary manifestations in things like corporate prosecutions of people who share content online and the use by universities of computerized tools that purport to be able to “analyze” the “originality” of student writing. In this chapter, I will introduce a series of activities designed to engage students in exploring how their everyday literacies associated with sharing and reusing the content of others can actually contribute to rather than detract from the development of creativity and sound academic writing skills and to foster the conditions in the composition classroom for more open, non-judgmental discussions about intellectual property. I will be focusing primarily on three different but related literacy practices, which I call mashing – the ability to borrow and effectively combine ideas and content from others, modding – the ability to alter borrowed ideas or content in a way that makes it “new,” and memeing – the ability to promote one’s “new” idea in a way that encourages other people to borrow it and to further alter it or combine it with other ideas or content.

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