12.15.2009

Web as Trash Dump

I'm looking through email and come across a Google Alert for "Spencer Schaffner." Two or three links come in a day via this net, usually amounting to nothing, but I use the alert (and others like it) to keep track of the basic parameters of my web footprint.

Today's link is to coursehero.com, a site based (in part) on mining syllabi and reposting them in altered, stripped-down form. Soooo, since I post course materials and a syllabus every time I teach, and I have been doing this for the past nine years, you can imagine my astonishment at the volume of mined and reposted material over at coursehero.

In a little iFrame, my materials in their unformatted new form look like this:



I used to get bothered when I learned that someone had taken something I'd put online and presented it as their own (without attribution). And syndication can be equally frustrating online; in this case, it's happened without consent and via mechanisms of automation. Via such tools, the web becomes a garbage dump of duplicates and copies. As I've mentioned a couple of times before, originals seem to exist online only momentarily before being copied and republished for further purposes of copying.

In the case of syllabi being ripped off, I'm not too bothered: course materials are meant to be shared, tweaked, and repurposed. If someone can find something useful in course materials, and students benefit, then that's cool. At the same time, by stripping my course materials of all features of design and context, they now look kind of sad online.

I'm tempted to turn all text I post online into images in some desperate attempt to limit the extent to which my words are mined and spread around. But why bother?

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