The main drivers and sources of people’s creativity and idea development are rather diverse, and there exist several entirely different opinions about this process. Some people believe that everything created is just a duplication of masterpieces and works of art created in the past. From this viewpoint, modern artists, novelists, and sculptors simply use past ideas as a basis and repeat them in a modified way. Other experts, however, believe that people steal ideas from each other, condemning such activity and calling it plagiarism.
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Apart from this viewpoint, others still think that external ideas find their way to their creators using inner thoughts or even conversations with themselves and other people. The existence of such diverse opinions has formed a basis for continuous debate on the subject, so it is reasonable to review each belief from a different viewpoint and explore each idea with the help of practical examples from the real world of art. As for my perception, I strongly believe that all works have to be recognized and that plagiarism should not be supported, as it has a devastating impact on one’s creativity and affects the very definition of originality negatively. So, what is the difference between originality and plagiarism?
Understanding the World through Perceptions of Other People
When trying to explain his viewpoint on people’s inability to create and develop entirely new ideas, David Shields notes that there is “no such thing as originality” (Shields). The author is convinced that everything we invent is a recycled use of something that has already been designed. One of the brightest examples of this idea is the pop art movement. Andy Warhol, as one of the most recognized representatives of pop art, used an existing photo of Marilyn Monroe to create a “recycled” piece of art, Marilyn Diptych (Magnussen et al. 11).
This sort of “plagiarism” was the basis for the development of a completely new art movement. This case entirely complies with Shields’ opinion. He opposes the necessity to cite everything taken from other sources since it is apparent that the ideas are not new. Indeed, the author even remarks that the citation “domesticates” and “flattens” the masterpiece and deprives it of its “excitement, risk, and danger” (Shields). For another example, in his artwork, Lichtenstein uses plots and images from comic strips (Magnussen et al. 12). This risky act helps him create unique and interesting masterpieces without the need to cite the source of the idea as it is apparent. It adds peculiarity and novelty to the era of pop art.
In turn, when discussing plagiarism in writing, Shields emphasizes that there is no real distinction between the works of fiction and non-fiction writers, as both of them employ memory and imagination simultaneously. Shields call these two notions “Siamese twins” and says that no writer has the power to separate them (Shields). For example, even though popular singers such as Kanye West and Rihanna often refer to past songs, their art is considered to be new and original. It could be claimed that the principal idea of Shields’ article is to show that not all cases of copying can be defined as plagiarism, as sometimes taking from a well-known masterpiece may form the basis for the development of an entirely new movement that still recognizes the rights of the author of the original work. This article transforms the concept of originality by making it more flexible to change and adapt.
At the other end of the spectrum, Peter Rinck is highly concerned about the habits of modern writers and calls them the “copy-and-paste” generation (Rinck 13). Indeed, the author argues that this trend negates the very concepts of authorship and originality because the last term implies focusing and introducing entirely new ideas with the help of a creative state of mind. He does not support writers or other creators having the right to use other people’s work and calls plagiarism “a striking lack of scientific competence” (Rinck 13). This statement emphasizes his view that the modern generation of singers such as Kanye West would rather take words from well-known songs and existing beats rather than create purely new concepts and melodies on their own.
A similar tendency dominates the educational environment, as students are vulnerable to external influences in the same way that popular singers, artists, and writers are. However, Rinck does not blame writers solely for the development of this trend; instead, he claims that it is the fault of their teachers, who underestimate the need to explain to their students the basics of effective writing and proper citation rules (Rinck 13). Nonetheless, blaming teachers does not resolve this issue, as the damage caused by using other people’s ideas is multidimensional. In the first place, plagiarism has a negative financial impact on the revenues of the authors of the original works and questions the overall idea of authorship. Indeed, it seems that the word “authorship” has lost its original meaning. Secondly, plagiarists are unable to perform their research, and they face the risk of being discovered and disqualified (Rinck 13). This claim questions the principles of originality, as these individuals can copy and paste but not to create and design purely novel concepts. A combination of these factors supports Rinck’s idea that plagiarism is a negative phenomenon with adverse financial and educational outcomes.
Nonetheless, plagiarism is still one of the most common problems in educational institutions today. Students’ perceptions of plagiarism depend on their university policies and their tutor’s dedication to proper instruction against stealing others’ work (Li and Casanave 165). The motives for plagiarism may differ from student to student: some students do it on purpose, while others may do it unintentionally. To avoid being caught, some students resort to what is known as “patchwriting,” or paraphrasing the ideas of other authors while pretending that they are original and new (Li and Casanave 165). While the authors consider this method wrong, they admit that it demands some thorough thought from the person who uses it. In this way, it is better than the copy-and-paste approach, although it does not comply with the definition and principles of creativity. This method causes the writer to lose contact with inner voices that could help him or her develop ideas.
Based on the factors provided above, it seems that everyone admits that humans understand the world through the perceptions of others, but most people would disagree with Shields that instances of borrowing should not be cited. Apart from being popular, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and West indicate the sources from which they borrow their ideas. Meanwhile, the originality of their works is still dictated by their imaginations and inner voices. One’s intellectual property is as valuable as any financial ownership, and people should respect others by referencing sources, as Rinck claims (13).
Inner Conversations as Facilitators of Thinking and Creating Processes
As mentioned briefly earlier, the process of creation is highly linked to the idea of having inner conversations and imagination. In The Voices in Our Heads, Jerome Groopman dwells on the importance of talking to oneself and hearing voices (Groopman). He shares the opinion of psychology professor Charles Fernyhough, who considers these phenomena not mere “quirks” but rather issues bearing a much deeper significance (Groopman). The nature of inner conversation varies from person to person, as some do it rarely while others admit to having frequent inner conversations. It goes beyond memorization, as it is a crucial constituent of the contemplating process (Groopman). Unfortunately, no research can do more than provide an unpolished phenomenology of inner speech, but Fernyhough was able to state that this process helps people build a logical framework of arguments and follow them (Groopman). Apart from that, it also plays the role of defense mechanism and improves the task-switching and problem-solving processes (Groopman; Perrone-Bertolott et al. 230-231).
When considering this process from the perspective of a creator, its role cannot be underestimated. These inner conversations help the creator integrate and generate ideas and develop original masterpieces. When talking to oneself, a writer or artist discovers the beauty and peculiarity of the world from an entirely different lens that reflects his or her feelings, mental condition, and thoughts. Famous novelist Jeanette Winterson heard voices, and this disturbance helped her write uniquely magical and breathtaking texts (Groopman). Another example is the poet Robert Lovell. He was reported to the hospital with a severe lung infection, but this condition boosted his creativity (Groopman). Lovell discovered the story of Achilles through the lens of his illness and viewed it from an entirely different angle. It could be said that inner conversations are strongly linked to the originality of art, as this method expands the creator’s horizons of imagination. At the same time, a copy-and-paste approach should be viewed as a major threat to creativity and a problem that supports the culture of plagiarists.
The thinking and creating abilities of every person differently, but they all need assistance and guidance to be most productive. Whether it is the support of inner voices or inspiration acquired from the work of others, creators need something to inspire them to design something new. Concerning the originality of the artwork and the need to reflect the original authors of the used masterpiece, some people believe that it is not necessary to cite, while others claim that original authors should always be recognized and referenced. Regardless of one’s particular opinion, one thing is certain: no creation would be possible without the achievements of the past. We all base our creativity and thinking on something that has already been discovered, but we can make fantastic modifications to these objects and ideas. Nonetheless, the copy-and-paste approach and plagiarism should not be supported, as they hurt creativity and lessen the creator’s significant bond with his or her inner voices.
Groopman, Jerome. “The Voices in Our Heads.” The New Yorker. 2017, Web.
Li, Yonguan, and Christine Casanave. “Two First-Year Student’s Strategies for Writing from Sources: Patchwriting and Plagiarism.” Journal of Second Language Writing, vol. 21, no. 1, 2012, pp. 165-180.
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Magnussen, Erin, et al. Comics and Power: Representing and Questioning Culture, Subjects, and Communities. Cambridge Scholar’s Publishing, 2015.
Perrone-Bertolott, Marcella, et al. “What Is That Little Voice Inside My Head? Inner Speech Phenomenology, Its Role in Cognitive Performance, and Its Relation to Self-Monitoring.” Behavioral Brain Research, vol. 261, no. 1, 2014, pp. 220-239.
Rinck, Peter. “The Copy-and-Paste Generation: Plagiarism’s Many Faces.” Rickside, vol. 24, no. 1, 2013, pp. 13-14.
Shields, David. “I Can’t Stop Thinking Through What Other People Are.” The White Review. 2013, Web.