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Kristin Knox Headshot

I Copy & Paste Therefore I Am

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When I was still ensconced in the Ivory Towers of academia, the "absent-minded" appropriation of someone else's words into one's own essay for the submitting amounted to the deployment of fear-inducing word followed by one career-wrecking remedial action. Those would be plagiarism and expulsion, respectively. And I don't just mean plagiarism of the most blatant copy-and-paste variety, I'm talking down to the minute levels of nuance of linguistic cadence, sloppy citation and half-assed paraphrasing being enough to bring your work under the scrutiny (and mercy) of the board. In academic and publishing circles, passing off someone's words or ideas as your own is the ultimate of intellectual sins.

Fast forward three years and I'm a full time blogger who routinely wakes up to discover a selection of her work - from images to text to ideas to coined phrases - ripped off unceremoniously across the internet, without even so much as a hint of citation. And I am certainly not the only one. Don't get me wrong, as one-man publications, we have to cut corners where we can to keep the content coming, and not every pithy news story will get the same careful editorial treatment as a full-blown feature. I myself copy and paste press releases on to my site, but only where they concern news and clearly indicate all cited content as being just that - cited.

"Copy & Paste" fashion blogging has been around in effect for just as long as fashion blogging itself and comes predominantly in two main forms, one less offensive than the other. Offence One involves the sticking up of a press release in its entirety but cloaking its contents as the product of your own ingenuity. Offence Two, which is by far the worse, amounts to copying and pasting from the original work of a cyber colleague and fiddling with a word or two. The reasons "justifying" this sort of behavior are numerous (I'm sure you can imagine what they are without me recounting here), but as blogging continues along its evolution from personal pastime to viable fashion career trajectory, I find them less and less easy to abide.

They basically boil down to a certain laziness on the part of the blogger coupled with a lack of conviction in his or her own recourse to an opinion. And these two things, in my opinion, underwrite the whole operation of blogging, which is meant to be about self-initiated self-expression. This London Fashion Week, I even noticed that the brands and PRs have resorted to publicly disavowing this practice, tweeting lamentations of the prevalence of copy-and-paste press releases standing in for show reviews cropping up on the sites of bloggers who were invited as well as those who were expressly not. Like checking in on FourSquare at the Chanel show in Paris when you're actually comfortably situated at home in front of the Live Stream in your jammies.

Just as easy as it would be to point fingers at bloggers for their lack of initiative and creative input, the direction in which social media in general seems to be headed is most likely just as much to blame. We find ourselves in a digital society that at once values individuality, but only in so far as it can homogenize it across integrated multi-platform "sharing." That is to say, we have created systems that encourage and perpetuate the appropriation of other peoples' thoughts and ideas as our own and embrace it wholeheartedly. Just as much as social media has championed the sharing of individual thoughts, opinions and points-of-view, it also has also had the opposite effect, teasing out mankind's mimetic herd-like tendencies, encouraging "following" rather than leading. The appropriation of the ideas of others is streamlined into a commodity with buttons like 'retweet' on Twitter, 'reblog' on Tumblr and 'repin' on Pinterest. Of course I myself am privy to all of these buttons and use them daily, but nonetheless, I think it's still worth pointing out that these channels encourage us to claim a partial ownership of (and then disseminate) someone else's creative moment of inspiration, be it a single image or 140 characters of quote.

So let me wrap up by putting a little simile to you. It's a bit like dropping a rock into a still pool of water, the stone instantly slips beneath the surface, gone from view forever, but it's ripples, radiating outwards wider and wider are all that stay always in view. Even though each ripple moves rather away from the original, it is all that remains. Thus it is with a juicy nugget Tweeted or fancy photo Instagrammed. Within seconds, minutes, it's been retweeted/blogged/pinned so many times that its original author is lost. What worries me is not the interactive culture of sharing, but the element of taking without heed. If everyone were just to take without giving back, soon we'd end up in a cyber sphere saturated by endless "re-s" (reTweets/rePins/reBlogs/etc); once that stone is gone, it's gone for good.

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