Technology enables people to connect in ways that would have been impossible just a short time ago. From blogs to message boards, people have the ability to share ideas at an incredible rate of speed. This ease of communication creates amazing possibilities and is altering the intellectual landscape. People now have the ability to collaborate and add to each other’s ideas, creating digital think tanks from thousands of miles apart.
In an interview conducted by McKinsey & Company entitled “The disruptive power of collaboration, and interview with Clay Shirky”, Shirky, a professor of new media at New York University explores the effects of collaborative technology. According to Shirky the easy of communication granted by technology has created a division of labor of ideas, allowing people to individually contribute small pieces of information to collectively complete a project. This “collaborative penumbra” has caused a paradigm shift where demand creates supply and communication is so inexpensive that it may as well be free (2014).
Not only is the technological revolution changing the way we collaborate, but also the way business is conducted. As processes become cheaper and easier to complete, businesses have less of a competitive advantage. More people are able to compete with existing businesses, lowering profits. Shirky states that we are moving from an era of scare resources and abundant profits to an era of abundant resources and scare profits (2014).
With information so easily accessible, problems also arise in academia. Hollis Phelps a professor at Mount Olive College delves into this issue in his article “Zizek, plagiarism and the lowering of expectations”. In his article Phelps relays the story of Slavoj Zizek, an author who he admires greatly due to his immense breadth of knowledge. Unfortunately, it is uncovered that Zizek is using other authors’ work without proper citation and he is accused of plagiarism. Phelps does not seem surprised with this revelation due to the large work load that Zizek carries. He also states that ““Real” scholarship places a value on uniqueness and novelty, which requires a careful balance when it comes to the citation process” (2014).
This statement is particularly relevant in the current climate of collaboration. How will scholars differentiate themselves in the era of massive collaboration? Is the academic division of labor preferable to traditional methods if it yields greater results? Currently the answer to these questions are unknown, but the process of finding the answer has already begun. Although the way we collaborate is changing at an incredible pace, we must rely on the existing frame work of academia and provide proper citation when necessary. Everyone who contributes to a project deserves recognition, no matter how small their contribution. With the increase in the number of people collaborating, this is even more important. The bibliography may be twice as long as the text, bit it is still necessary.
McKinsey & Company. (2014, March 4). The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky. Retrieved November 22, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxJ-g7y1uSw
Phelps, H. (2014, July 17). Žižek, plagiarism and the lowering of expectations (essay) @insidehighered. Retrieved November 22, 2014, from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/17/%C5%BEi%C5%BEek-plagiarism-and-lowering-expectations-essay