A short while ago I read a column from the New York Times with the title ”Slaves of the Internet, Unite”.
Being a journalist by profession and having many artist friends I know the subject of that column way to well.
Lots of writers and artists are asked to do original work for free and for what usually is called ”great exposure”.
This made me think a bit about the SCA too.
We have a wonderful way of sharing knowledge and helping each other find new sources and get more and new knowledge.
What gets me is the times when someone walks up to me or e-mails me and asks me to just hand over all my research.
And the reason they usually feel entitled to my research is because they have been asked to teach or they have been told they need to write up some documentation if they want to advance, and they really don’t know much about the subject because they have up to this point just been making pretty and lovely things but not really studied the field.
Their interest focus has been on making the items – not knowing how the items really were made, who used them and from what materials the items were made.
I am not saying this approach is wrong! Not everyone likes to do research.
Usually I don’t think the person asking me to hand over my research does it out of malice and I really think that they don’t understands what they are asking me to do.
I think we are so used to the sharing and helping in the SCA that we have lost parts of the respect for what goes in to doing the research.
Would you ever come up with the idea and offer to teach a class/hold a workshop on a subject that you have no or very little knowledge about at school or at work?
Would you ever – in the mundane world – ask someone else to write up your assignment to hand in to the teacher to get a grade?
I don’t think so. Unless you belong to the group of people that cut corners by plagiating someone elses work.
And if you are not ok with plagiarism in the mundane world – then you shouldn’t be ok with plagiarism in the SCA context.
Stealing is stealing. People will get upset.
Using someone elses research as a base for your own – that is ok. Just as it is in the mundane world.
But if you are not prepared to do some research on your own – don’t say yes to teaching a subject you do not know and don’t participate in A&S competitions where a proper documentation is required.
The internet and the possibility to google just about anything and have someone else give us all the answers have made many of us lazy and made us think that well what the heck – I’ll just google it. And in the SCA – we sort of google by going to the person we know that knows the most about a subject.
Don’t get me wrong. We should share and we should help each other in the SCA.
But to ask someone who has spent YEARS on researching a subject to hand over all the research so that you yourself don’t have to do any work and then use that material for your own advancement and teaching – that is plain rude.
Some of my own research comes from material that I have gotten by contacting museums to get articles sent to me in languages like Czech, Polish and German and that I then have spent time on translating. Not to mention what work went into actually finding out that there was material to ask for…
In my work as a journalist I have to rely on other peoples information to get the basic understanding of a subject – but when I write the article – I do my own original piece.
Or when I see some other newspapers layout that is brilliant – I can of course lend the idea – but then adapt it for other content that suits my newspaper. I do not just take the entire subject and layout and do the exact same thing.
Inspiration and plagiarism are two very different things.
And this is what I wanted to get to.
I happily share my handouts.
I have posted a link to my LibraryThing where people can see all the books I own (or they will soon when I get the time to add the rest of the books) and hence see what books I have used to do my research. I like owning the books so I have invested quite a lot of money in my research materials.
I also happily teach.
I can even tell people in what book they can find the information they are looking for.
What I do NOT do – is to do the research for them.
I do not make handouts for others.
I also won’t put together classes for others.
If you want me to comment on your handout, your lecture structure and what you plan to bring up in your lecture – I will happily comment and help.
But you have to do the work yourself.
In the end – you will feel great about what you have accomplished and on top of that – you will have shown those who have done research in the same field before you, that you understand the hard work they have done and that you value their help.
So this is my SCA take on how I do not do original work for free for others.
I can help you, show you in the right direction – but the reading and writing I will not do for you.