My Word! by Susan Blum is featured in the April 16, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal. A link to the article appears below, but here’s an excerpt:
Like Margaret Mead among the Samoans, Ms. Blum views her subjects — “digital natives” — as an exotic species. She notes their constant use of email, text messaging and the Internet. She declares them to be “the wordiest and most writerly generation in a long while” and anoints their conversational tendency to quote TV shows and films an admirable form of “intertextuality.” They are “storming the barricades” of a new digital future, she claims, using the Internet to engage in collaborative work and to expand their knowledge base. She finds the hapless faculty members charged with teaching such students “embattled and bewildered.” In other words: Get Twittering, grandma.
Ms. Blum also embraces various postmodern theories of plagiarism. Internet-savvy, intertextual ingénues don’t steal words; they engage in “patchwriting” and “pastiche,” constructing essays the way they create eclectic music playlists for their iPods. This practice, she argues, can be viewed as a form of homage or reverence as much as theft. In fact, as Ms. Blum’s research demonstrates, students today view writing — however we might define such a thing in a “pastiche” culture — as a purely instrumental activity: a means to an end.
It’s Not Theft, It’s Pastiche by Christine Rosen