German Defense Minister’s Plagiarism

The New York Times‘ Judy Dempsey has been following the case of German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was recently forced to admit that he had plagiarized passages in his doctoral dissertation and resign his post. “The German public takes such charges seriously,” Dempsey notes in her February 21st article. “It has enormous respect for those with academic titles.”

I wonder if a case like this would be quite so scandalous in the U.S.

Digital Natives on Digital Natives

In the ten years since Marc Prensky published his influential article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” a lot has happened in the contact zones of our classrooms. But how much progress have the natives and immigrants made toward understanding one another better?

Shorter, More Frequent Messages for Digital Natives

Students in my English 110 classes this semester (Spring 2011) are looking critically at the ways in which technology mediates their communications. One interesting trend is emerging from this group of about 35 students, nearly all of whom are digital natives: they express a strong preference for shorter, more frequent communications with others over longer conversations.

The Kennedies use their website to take on the History Channel

A very interesting blurb in Insider Higher Ed‘s 17 February “Quick Takes” reports that the Kennedy family and historians who have studied them have launched the website StopKennedySmears.com in response to an upcoming History Channel film on the Kennedies.

How interesting that a debate over history should be waged entirely outside the usual academic circles, in media other than scholarly journals. I think this may be one worth watching for those of us interested in the discourse of new media.

Open Access Journals

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article last week, Peter Schmidt reports on a number of initiatives such as the Public Knowledge Project, which aim to make scholarly journals available online and support publishers of journals by offering “free journal publishing software to academics” (par. 3). The article is the latest in a series appearing in The Chronicle that discusses the promises and perils of such open-access publication for scholarly journals. Granting consumers unrestricted access to information meant for experts can lead to unintended consequences. What happens, for example, when an article about experimental cancer treatments that was intended for other researchers is read by patients and their families desperate for a cure? Schmidt’s observes that open-access publishing “increases the risk that knowledge will fall into the hands of unintended audiences that could misuse it” (par. 18), sparking a minor flame war among Chronicle users who saw these comments as elitist.

But of greater interest to me was a brief discussion of the quality of open-access journals. “Although open-access academic journals so far appear about as likely to be peer-reviewed as printed ones are,” Schmidt observes, “their quality is emerging as a concern as their numbers rise” (par. 20). The peer review process used in open-access online journals is something I’ve not seen widely discussed in the professional literature of our discipline. But it reminds me of a recent presentation by Tim Laquintano, presently a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Tim has done extensive research in the discourse of the online poker community and finds that editorial practices and self-regulation within the community of “scholars” (i.e., those offering to teach others the art and science of online poker) are quite rigorous indeed.