The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism

Nowadays people live in an environment that overflows with information. When Jonathan Lethem mentions an example of John Donne’s quotation that even himself confused what line to search in web and typed “all mankind is of one volume” instead of “all mankind is of one author, and is one volume” I found many similar examples in my life and agreed how internet is often a gigantic swamp of unorganized information. Nevertheless, I still believe that web searching environment will someday overcome these problems and evolve to a better kind of source. The history of web searching is enormously short compared to the one of physical library and printed materials. Great thing about internet is that anyone can be “one author” and put his or her ideas. He mentions about how the phrase “every chapter must be so translated” was on internet simply because someone who loves Donne had posted it on his homepage. In contrast, it means that anyone can post anything and those uploads will be open to the public - even one’s personal love towards a poet.

A term “open source” has strong connection with programming to me, and I was amazed a similar culture started back from blues and jazz musicians. As he proceeds his conversation about copyright, it eventually led me to think about patent law and intellectual property right. It’s especially an important topic as brands and identity systems gain more and more significant value to major corporations than the past. However, a producer in any kind of creative area should always give credit when using others’ work, not only because of profit and fame but because it’s the expression of respect towards the original author’s labor and creativity. A plagiarism is an act that discourages both the producer’s creativity and the whole creative production society.

Embrace the Remix

Kirby Ferguson’s presentation also includes the reference of Bob Dylan. Especially the example of how Bob Dylan’s lyric for Don’t Think Twice, It’s Aright with a traditional song Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons performed by Paul Clayton reminded me how Jonathan Lethem was unconsciously typing a wrong line of quote of John Donne. A plagiarism, or a “remix” rather happens unconsciously than intentionally. One of the famous S.Korean singers said, only the producer himself or herself truly knows it was an intentional plagiarism. On the other hand, it’s also a reason why I believe any process of creative producing should involve some background research about its concept - to find out what are the similar examples and to bring back a possible “unconscious” plagiarism to a proper remix.

Kirby Ferguson says that creative works are “a property that we’re all building on…creations can only take root and grow when’s that ground is prepared” and it again leads back to the conclusion I made in the previous reading. Act of plagiarism is toxic because it kills “the ground” for creative works to grow and undermines morale of producers - which ultimately makes “a property that we’re all building on” to collapse. Using others’ work as reference and “remix” accelerate the process of creating, but there is a difference between referencing and simply killing “the ground.” In another word, the title of this lecture “Embrace the Remix” doesn’t literally mean to tolerate plagiarism, but is interpreted as honestly embracing the fact that you’re influenced by others.