Should you always have to cite your sources?

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I often wonder why we put so much emphasis on citing sources.  “This was my idea!  You need to tell everyone you got that from me!”  Should we really be pushing a culture that puts so much emphasis on the creator rather than just enjoy the passing of ideas no matter who came up with them.  The more we encourage the use of other’s ideas and collaborate with each other’s ideas, the more we will get out of those ideas.  I can understand if I were to be making money off of other people’s ideas and then not giving them anything, but do we really need to cite just to share a photo?  I took some photos of students that are now on display in the front of the school.  My name is nowhere to be seen, but I love that someone thought my photos were good enough to put up there.  I don’t need the credit.  If they were going to sell those photos then I might feel I deserve some of that money, but not just to show them.  However, I guess that some people want to be given that credit for the work they have done and it can’t hurt to post a link to a photo to show where it came from.  I think a couple of years teaching in Latin America made me think differently about copyrights and patents.  Most of the world I grew up puts a strong value on “giving credit where credit is due” and that is a cultural value.  I see the value, but I also see limits to this value.  After all, was this the first time someone took a photo of a kid handing a flower to another kid?  Is this art really original?  Am I giving credit to someone who stole an idea from somewhere else?  Did the photographer steal the art of the children giving each other flowers?  Is it possible that what I am writing in this blog is not an original idea?  Should I be citing my whole background that made me think this way?  In other words, are there really any original thoughts?  How far do I take my citations?

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4 Responses to Should you always have to cite your sources?

  1. Seth,
    I have read a few of your posts and I really enjoy all the questions that you pose. Many of your questions mirror many of my thoughts on technology and the given debate over its use, presence, and necessity in our lives as humans and educators. The issue of citing sources and giving attribution is heavily stressed at our school. My students know how to properly attribute images that they use on their blogs and in other forms of presentations. I guess we feel this is important as that reflects our past history of ownership and copyright when it comes to ideas, creativity, and innovation. Your questions make me think that copyright is very “American” where innovation and ownership is highly valued, along with the monetary gains often associated with it.
    I look at your question about needing to cite a source just to share it. Your thoughts about needing credit for this purpose are ones to ponder. Are we doing “old things in new ways” as Marc Prensky describes?

    Stacie

  2. Stacie, thanks for taking the time to make some comments about my blog. We often take the way we do things as the only right way, so I like to look at things from another perspective. If we don’t look at things from new eyes, we will end up doing “old things in new ways”. That said, maybe our culture has a good way of doing things.

  3. Avatar of Meghan Meghan says:

    I remember an anecdote told in my teaching program about a college
    professor who was asked to review a paper from a Chinese student. When
    she read the paper, she noticed that there were no references anywhere.
    When she asked the student about that, they replied that they didn’t do
    that in China, that knowledge was communal, not individual. I’ve never
    heard anything like that again, but I always thought it was an
    important thing to remember, that sometimes these values that we
    think are so intrinsically important may not actually be important in
    other cultures. Still, there does seem value in having people get into
    creation rather than copying, and to not pass off as their own creation
    things that were done by others. Perhaps it’s important if only to give
    thanks and acknowledgmentto those who have gone before us.

  4. Julie Pyburn says:

    Megan’s comments remind me of an article I read recently in the Jakarta
    Post about plagiarism. The author, Setiono Sugiharto, an associate
    professor at Atma Jaya Catholic University, argues that plagiarism is an
    Anglo- American, Eurocentric concept and that ‘in a culture that
    reveres established knowledge as something sacrosanct, incontestable,
    infallible and transcendental, quoting precisely the original sources
    is highly recommended in deference to this knowledge. Saying it using
    other words is considered insolent and disrespectful.’
    He argues that a lot of academic writing is not really original, that
    plagiarism is a confusing concept and suggests that ‘textual borrowing’
    should be seen as a ‘mode of learning’.
    I can understand this, but I’d have thought that if you were going to quote
    verbatim from a source, then this should be recognized.

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