Damn, this is what plagiarism looks like.

On November 11, 2011 by christy

Latest update:

18th Nov 2011: The CEO of InaGlobal, François Quinton, contacted me last week to let me know he will be investigating my complaint. He contacted me yesterday to let me know that unfortunately my complaint was correct. They took the article down on Monday. I’m contacted François, thanking him for following this up and requested that the article be edited and put back online. Besides the terrible plagiarism of my own work, it is actually a good article and good sources in it.

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Yesterday I was sent via Twitter a happy message by a stranger mentioning an article I had been ‘reviewed’ in. I went to the article and found that words from my thesis are in the body of the article, without quotation marks or citation. This is very poor form for a lady who is a post-doctoral fellow and a website that obviously pays for the articles. I reported the abuse to the website and tweeted that I reported it, including sending a message to one of my followers who works at the website. Nothing has been done as yet, and I’ve had a couple of people message me in Twitter saying I was being unfair because the author refers to my thesis at the end of the article (my thesis which is freely available on the web). They were oblivious to the fact the author was pretending that my words were her words in the body of the article. This is the point.

I’m thrilled she has read my thesis so closely, and I love her selection of my arguments. But for some reason she cites other theorists such as Henry Jenkins, Geoffrey Long and Carlos Scolari properly and misrepresents my words as her own. I must reflect her views, which is pretty cool. But she is a post-doctoral fellow, and so should know standards of ethical attribution. For me, this isn’t about people knowing they are my words necessarily, but that she is a professional researcher who is behaving unethically. Since no-one from the website has responded to me, and some people just don’t understand what plagiarism is, I’ll outline just what this author has done.

Read down to the section “NARRATIVE AND GAME ASPECTS”, now see her words and mine side by side:

Her words? My Words & Quotes
“Transmedia storytelling techniques often involve a combination of media platforms that contain both narrative and gaming aspects.” “Transmedia projects involve a combination of media platforms that oftentimes have both narrative and game modes.” (p. 183)
“In her book Narrative Across Media, Marie-Laure Ryan explores narratives in technical, sociological, cognitive and aesthetic terms[+]. She develops a definition that fits for both verbal and non-verbal media since she sees narrative as a “cognitive construction” or “mental image” made by the interpreter in response to the text. As she explains in her introduction:

“1. A narrative text must create a world and populate it with characters and objects. Logically speaking, this condition means that the narrative text is based on propositions asserting the existence of individuals and on propositions ascribing properties to these existents.
2. The world referred to by the text must undergo changes of state that are caused by non-habitual physical events: either accidents (“happenings”) or deliberate human actions. These changes create a temporal dimension and place the narrative world in the flux of history.
3. The text must allow the reconstruction of an interpretive network of goals, plans, causal relations, and psychological motivations around the narrated events. This implicit network gives coherence and intelligibility to the physical events and turns them into a plot.”

“But as Ryan explains, narrative has been explored in existential, cognitive, aesthetic, sociological, and technical terms (Ryan 2004a, 2). It is the recent challenge of transmedial narratology 15 that has led Ryan (and others) to develop a definition that can operate in both verbal and non-verbal media (ibid.). To do this, Ryan has leaned towards narrative as a “cognitive construct, or mental image, built by the interpreter in response to the text”:
• A narrative text must create a world and populate it with characters and
objects. Logically speaking, this condition means that the narrative text is
based on propositions asserting the existence of individuals and on
propositions ascribing properties to these existents.
• The world referred to by the text must undergo changes of state that are
caused by nonhabitual physical events: either accidents (“happenings”) or
deliberate human actions. These changes create a temporal dimension and
place the narrative world in the flux of history.
• The text must allow the reconstruction of an interpretive network of goals,
plans, causal relations, and psychological motivations around the narrated
events. This implicit network gives coherence and intelligibility to the
physical events and turns them into a plot.
(ibid., 8–9)” (page 185)
“However, according to Gonzalo Frasca, the acceptance of narrative and game modes together when talking about transmediality is not without complication. Gonzalo Frasca states that a methodological goal for the study of transmedia storytelling practices must be to develop a model that facilitates the identification and interrogation of the nature of both narrative and game elements since there are not yet any common shared terms to describe phenomena in ways that are not mode-specific or medium-specific. He suggests that the difference between narrative and game is between representation and simulation. Thus, while characters in books and films are static in the sense that the viewer or reader has no influence on them, in video games, those same characters can be tokens of interaction.” “The recognition of narrative and game modes is not without its complications.” (page 188 – note the article author assigns these words to Frasca, when they are mine)
“A methodological goal for the study of transmedia practice, then, has been to develop a model that facilitates the identification and interrogation of the nature of both narrative and game elements.” (page 188 – note the article author assigns these words to Frasca, when they are mine)
“We don’t yet have shared terms to describe phenomena in ways that are not mode-specific, and in many cases not medium-specific.” (pages 188-189 – note the article author assigns these words to Frasca, when they are mine)
“Gonzalo Frasca has suggested the difference between narrative and game is the difference between representation and simulation (Frasca 2003b)16.” (page 185)
“In novels and films characters are not the tokens for interaction that they usually become in video games.” (page 191 – this is actually a quote from Markuu Eskelinen, unattributed again by the author of the article)
“The same principle applies to characters in novels and films. They behave differently than those in video games. Markku Eskelinen[+], an independent scholar and experimental writer of ergodic prose, interactive drama, critical essays and cybertext fiction, finds it important to understand that when pieces of content move across media, they change context, function and position. This affects, thus, their modal status.” “when bits and pieces of content move across media they change context, function and position which may affect and usually also affects their modal status.” (page 191 – this is actually a quote from Markuu Eskelinen, unattributed again by the author of the article)
“Markku Eskelinen illustrates how transformations can occur within a mode (intramodal), between modes (intermodal), and how they can be homomodal (retaining their modal status in transformation) or heteromodal (elements changing their modal status in transformation). He offers examples of intermodal transformations between narrative elements and game elements such as the shift from an episode to a cut scene (homomodal), or a film character to a player-character (heteromodal). Among other functions, this approach assists in understanding the nature of narrative and game as peculiar semiotic elements.” “Eskelinen offers a chart (see Table 3) to illustrate how transformations can occur within a mode (intramodal), between modes (intermodal), and how they can be homomodal (retaining their modal status in transformation) or heteromodal (elements changing their modal status in transformation)18. He offers examples of intermodal transformations between story/narrative elements and game elements: such as the shift from an episode to a cut-scene (homomodal), or a film character to a player-character (heteromodal). Among other functions, this approach assists in understanding of the nature of narrative and game as peculiar semiotic elements.” (page 191)

Since I’m not aware of any contemporary transmedia researchers that discuss the practice being more than just “storytelling”, it would of been great to have another researcher continue the conversation. But instead, she copies and pastes the conversation, without attribution and reflection. The next section, “THE AUDIENCE: FROM CONSUMER TO STORY GENERATOR”, continues the unethical writing:

Her words? My Words & Quotes
“David Marshall’s theory of a “new intertextual commodity”[+] keeps this commodified intertextuality paradigm. He argues that the “industrial” strategy of massaging the filmic text into something larger is nothing new. What is new is the intensification and elaboration of the intertextual matrix.” “…and P. David Marshall’s theory of a “new intertextual commodity” persisted this commodified intertextuality paradigm in the early 2000s (Marshall 2002). Marshall argues that the “industrial strategy of massaging the filmic text into something larger has been inherited from entertainment’s Hucksterism,” and so while this strategy is therefore nothing new, what has “altered is the intensification and elaboration of the intertextual matrix”” (page 33 – and once again the quotes by other authors aren’t cited clearly either)
“According to him, film, music, websites, television documentaries, books, product licensing, as well as video and computer games are elaborately cross-referenced in the contemporary entertainment industry through magazines, newspapers, entertainment news programs, industry-related consumer and trade magazines, and electronic journals. The audience “learns” about a product through its associations in other cultural forms.” “Film, music, video and computer games, Websites, television documentaries, books and product licensing are elaborately cross-referenced in the contemporary entertainment industry through the usual suspects of magazines, newspapers, entertainment news programmes, industry-related consumer and trade magazines and electronic journals. The audience “learns” about a product through its associations in other cultural forms. (ibid., 69)” (page 33 – in my thesis, this is a block quote of Marshall)
“In the context of transmedia fictions, the theoretical heritage is marked by an emphasis on commodification and consumption.” “In the context of transmedia fictions, the theoretical heritage has been marked by an emphasis on commodification and consumption.” (page 31)
“It includes the complexity of the dispositions of users to interpret and identify characters, themes, environments or other semiotic elements presented by the media outlets. It even goes deeper when one looks at the complexity of identity markets, which help to shape our dispositions and to the social networks in which we conduct our interaction with media outlets. The meaning of a sign or media outlet is not only determined by its qualities but by the interpretive conventions of a community.” Not sure where this is from, but I suspect it may be Marsha Kinder’s words? This is the problem, it may be her thoughts but given her behaviour just what her ideas are will perhaps never be known. She does herself a disservice.
“Transmedia works in a quite complex way. This complexity goes further than just the complexity and the versatility of the forms of the franchise. Marsha Kinder[+] already developed a theory on transmedia intertextuality to describe how 1980s franchises worked. She studied Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which first appeared as a cartoon series on American television in 1987; a computer game on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1989; and one year later, a live-action feature film.” “A key theorist engaging with this approach is Kinder, who developed a theory of transmedia intertextuality to describe how 1980s franchises operated (Kinder 1991). Those franchises included Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which first appeared as a cartoon series on American television in 1987 (see Figure 2); a computer game on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1989 (see Figure 3)3; and one year later, a live-action feature film (see Figure 4).” (page 32 – the article author then has an image of these three items, just like in my thesis – though she uses different images)
“Using the example of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Marsha Kinder came to the conclusion that a “super entertainment system” is in essence a network of intertextual references constructed around a figure or a group of figures from pop culture that are either fiction or real.” “It was from this franchise, along with other child-targeted franchises such as Mattel’s Masters of the Universe and Takara and Hasbro’s Transformers, and watching how her son engaged with these franchises across comics, toys, animated televisions series and feature films, that Kinder developed her theory of a “super entertainment system” (ibid., 4). [Then move into a block quote:] A supersystem is a network of intertextuality constructed around a figure or group of figures from pop culture who are either fiction [...] or “real” [...]” (page 32)

It is at this point the author refers to other works and ideas that are not related to my thesis. Then in the next section, “THINKING BEYOND BORDERS”, she refers to a theorist and idea I draw on:

Her Words? My Words & Quotes
” A true transmedia narrative looks beyond that border. A mentality that goes back to the Renaissance: [Block quote]
The idea that a painting is made of paint on canvas or that a sculpture should not be painted seems characteristic of the kind of social thought categorizing and dividing society into nobility with its various subdivisions, untitled gentry, artisans, serfs and landless workers- which we call the feudal conception of the Great Chain of Being. [...] Separation into rigid categories is absolutely irrelevant. [+]. [End block quote] Following Dick Higgins’s vision, one can argue that the strict division we have nowadays between media is somewhat artificial.”
“Higgins coined intermedia, Fluxus artist and theorist Ken Friedman explains, “to describe the tendency of an increasing number of the most interesting artists to cross the boundaries of recognized media or to fuse the boundaries of art with media that had not previously been considered art forms” (Friedman [1998]). Intermedia works brought together what had been artificially estranged: [Block quote]
Much of the best work being produced today seems to fall between media. This is no accident. The concept of the separation between media arose in the Renaissance. The idea that a painting is made of paint on canvas or that a sculpture should not be painted seems characteristic of the kind of social thought —categorizing and dividing society into nobility with its various subdivisions, untitled gentry, artisans, serfs and landless workers—which we call the feudal conception of the Great Chain of Being. […] We are approaching the dawn of a classless society, to which separation into rigid categories is absolutely irrelevant. (Higgins 2004 [1965]) [End block quote]” (page 89)

I’m thrilled the author of the article has read my thesis so closely. But being a post-doctoral fellow and writing this article (for I presume a fee), makes her plagiarism unforgivable. She should know better. And the website, which apparently prides itself on ethical practices, has been slow and even indifferent to my report (no official response, and only a tweet that seems to doubt my claims).

5 Responses to “Damn, this is what plagiarism looks like.”

  • When I say “poor paraphrase” in this context its to say how mediocre it was for her not even to write the article in her own words (meaning, doing her job). I’m sorry, but I’m French, maybe it’s the tone, maybe it’s the word, I don’t know. I speak as an individual who sympathize with Christy situation! I’m not in the staff, I write as a freelance once in a while! I saw the fact that Christy was feeling angry and that no one was answering / taking action here in France so I told her what I heard to H.E.L.P. I have been in her same shoes about plagiat.
    And yes, “shit happens” it’s to say it is a shitty situation and I just wanted to say “sorry :( but what more can you do except wait for the article to be removed and the author punished?”. I don’t know why I’m being in all this, but okay, I should not have said anything. I just tweeted the article with an @ to christy because there was her work “mentioned” (I’m even afraid to use adjectives now). I have not read her thesis, I don’t support plagiat, I am peaceful!

  • It is a shame that your years of research and your effort to legitimize Transmedia theory in academia should be so lightly passed over. I’m glad to see you’re fighting for ethical standards. I suppose anyone can slip up as far as attribution, but to fail to correct the mistake when informed is intellectually lazy – and unethical. Once again, your are on the front lines of the battle, Christy. I’m sorry this happened to you – but I’m glad you’re not taking it lying down.

    Sandy

  • Although inexcusable, perhaps the plagiarism was aspirational. Few people have the command of the breadth of literature and theory that you do (and can explain it intelligibly besides.)

  • Thank you for commenting Pamela. I understand what you’re saying – it may have been difficult for her to translate my language. (I love the 3 Little Pigs btw – I use folktales in my workshops and find them the most effective tool for learning transmedia!).

  • Hi Christy,
    can you send me the link to the article you mention? I would like to talk to the people in France.
    Send me anything that can help with repositioning because that is a topic that i like very much !
    I did not noticed this before.
    You are a Transmedia Fairy !
    best
    KH

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