Circumventing (Ethically, that is)

I have a problem with This post describes my objection and research in detail, but simply: I object to using their ownership of my intellectual property to attract business, and charging me for the privilege. To date, I have successfully negotiated college without having to use it, finding technical, political and social ways around it each time. I have submitted my papers to extra rigor, agreed to be suspended if I cheat, proposed alternate technical and non-technical systems, and generally tried to make it easy for my professors to let me keep my ethics (and my IP). This semester I have a great professor whose policy is that his students use I have dropped classes for less.

This time I took it as a personal challenge–could I find to find away I can hold true to my convictions and give in to his policy?

Yes. This semester, I dedicate every piece of intellectual property I generate for this class to the public domain. In doing so, I not only give leave to make money off of my intellectual property–I give everyone in the world leave (as long as they cite me as the source, of course).

What follows is the full-text of my essay, analysing the role of science and technology in international politics. Enjoy!


Creative Commons License
This work is in the Public Domain.

Jessica Dickinson Goodman
Dr Barth
Science, Technology and International Politics
Paper 1 Assignment
20 January 2010

An Auxiliary Role in International Politics

In The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology, and the Evolution of International Politics, Dr Eugene Skolnikoff argues that international politics did not undergo a transformation in the 20th century because of developments in science and technology (S&T), but evolved with them. The influence of S&T innovations on national security, global economics and personal communication shaped international politics, but he argues it was not transformational. I believe that the advent of the Internet has permanently altered the balance between S&T and international politics, shifting it out of the auxiliary role Skolnikoff assigns it.

As a case study of S&T’s role in international politics, Skolnikoff follows the relationship between scientists and President Ronal Reagan in the debate surrounding the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).[i] At the time, most scientists believed that SDI was not feasible within the timeline that the President demanded and did not have a foundation in existing technology[ii]. However, at the President’s insistence, the project went forward. That scientists were so ineffective in shaping policy in an area in which they were considered experts, implies to Skolnikoff that scientists in international politics are auxiliary, or a Mr Bruce Bimer might say “on tap” and not “on top”.[iii]

S&T’s affect on the speed of transmission of data changed how economies related to each other, and helped move the global economy towards interdependence[iv]. By furthering globalization, S&T broadened the scope of issues addressed by international politics to include areas such as currency, intellectual property rights and environmental challenges which had historically been domestic affairs[v]. This broadening of scope is central to Skolnikoff’s argument: he believes that S&T helps extend the international political agenda into realms (domestic monetary policy, patenting and environmental regulation) to which it had previously not reached.

Skolnikoff believes that developments in S&T have been significant factors in the reshaping of the relationship between authoritarian regimes and their dissidents. Skolnikoff argues that, “the introduction of new technologies, particularly information technologies has become a critical factor—perhaps the critical factor—in subverting the centralization of political power in authoritarian regimes.”[vi] While Skolnikoff was writing about radio and fax machines, his point extends to social technologies, several of which have been used to much the same effect in recent challenges to undemocratic governments[vii]. In the end however, Skolnikoff returns to his argument that this empowerment is merely an evolution in international politics and not a revolution in global society.

The role of Science and Technology (S&T) in International Politics has been of a significant element within a larger system of global priorities and while S&T’s advances have broadened the agenda of international politics, Skolnikoff argues that they have not changed its fundamentals[viii]. In Skolnikoff’s estimation, scientists and technologists are not always pawns of politicians, on tap, but they are not on top. The heart of Skolnikoff’s argument is that because international politics continues to be system for balancing groups competing for primacy in “military force, natural-resource endowment, and economic capacity”, S&T cannot have permanently changed international politics.[ix]

I believe that S&T’s relationship to international politics is a more than an auxiliary one. While some S&T developments become tools in international politics, disruptive S&T innovations can reshape an entire political discourse. For example, social media such as Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized the scale and efficacy of dissidents[x], U.S. laws prohibiting the  export of strong cryptographic security systems were relaxed in 1999 because of pressure from the newly empowered computer security community[xi] and millions of individuals have changed the way human knowledge is collected and used through websites like Wikipedia[xii]. The Internet has pushed the world into the transformation that Skolnikoff found elusive.

Skolnikoff’s discourse so restricted the definition of transformation that it is difficult to imagine any change in the human condition that could be said to have been transformation in international politics[xiii]. An alternate perspective, provided by technologist Clay Shirky, is that the Internet has permanently changed the way society functions by empowering groups of people to communicate swiftly with other groups (such as scientists and technologists with politicians) without the historical mediating context.[xiv] Simply, Dr Shirky argues that the relationship of S&T to society is that of a trellis to a vine: technology does not create social change, but is the framework that the social change climbs upon.

That Skolnikoff missed this transformation is understandable, because only a few visionaries[xv] and science fiction authors[xvi] realized how important the Internet would be in 1993 (when The Elusive Transformation was published). Since then, the Internet has provided a platform for scientists and technologists to advocate policy changes away from mediating politicans. It is a media (unlike Congressional hearings or Op-Eds in the Washington Post) that appears to exist outside of the context of international politics. The power dynamic between scientists, technologists and politicians has shifted because scientists and technologists can more easily attain the appearance of independence from political manipulation and so are empowered to challenge policy without the mediation of politicians. Because of the Internet, S&T no longer must play an auxiliary role in international politics.

End Notes

[i] Skolnikoff, E. B. (1993). The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology, and the Evolution of International Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp 66.

[ii] Skolnikoff, E. B. (1993). The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology, and the Evolution of International Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp 68.

[iii] Bimer, B. (1996). The Politics of Expertise in Congress: the Rise and Fall of the Office of Technology Assessment. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. pp 28.

[iv] Skolnikoff, pp 41.

[v] ibid, pp 174.

[vi] ibid, pp 172.

[vii] Sullivan, A. (2009, June 13). The Revolution Will Be Twittered [Web log post]. Retrieved from Daily Dish:

[viii] Skolnikoff, pp 174.

[ix] Skolnikoff, pp 6.

[x] Sullivan, ibid.

[xi] Schneier, B. (1999, December 19). The 1999 Crypto Year-in-Review [Web log post]. Retrieved from Bruce Schneier:

[xii] Wikipedia. (n.d.). The History of Wikiepdia. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from

[xiii]Skolnikoff, pp 87.

9 ibid, pp 53.

[xiv] Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: the power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Books.

[xv] Steve Jackson Games v. Secret Service Case Archive [Legal Documents Associated with Steve Jackson Games v. Secret Service Case]. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2010, from The Electronic Frontier Foundation website:

[xvi] Stephenson, Neal. (1993). Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Dell.

Inspirational Quote:

“Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass high tech venture capitalism is a late-20th-century California phenomenon needs to read about the maniacs who built the first transatlantic cable projects. The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting.”–Neal Stephenson


  1. I too have a strong distain for turnit in. Let me run this by you and see what you think.

    What if I were to simply add something of this nature to the bottom of every paper I write:

    “This work is copyrighted 2011 Jacob Umberger all rights reserved except where otherwise noted. This document may not be duplicated nor submitted to a third party nor may derivative works be created.”

    In this case, removing the notice is breaking copyright law and submitting it to turn it in is breaking the copyright law as well. At that point it is the institutions choice weather they want to do so. Thereby admitting that what they are doing by using this service is wrong and against copyright not to mention making themselves liable.


  2. I like it. Simple, legally actionable, firm.

    The problem is, when you sign up for an account with iParadigms, you sign a contract saying they can keep copies of whatever you write. They say they are making a for-profit, transformative use, and were upheld in a 2008 court case (check Virginia and Arizona, I think it was a federal case with folks from both). So though you assert your copy-rights, because they have legal precedent saying their algorithm’s uses are transformative and therefore a legal derivative work, it won’t do much good.

    What I have had success with is providing teachers and administrators (you can go to the PTA if you have an in) with information about

    1) How easy it is to circumvent TurnItIn (showing it is not the magic-bullet for ending academic plagiarism it markets itself to be),

    2) The number of lawsuits TurnItIn has inflicted upon school districts and the potential for many more if they force students to turn over their intellectual property,

    3) The pedagogical fallacies with teaching respect for intellectual property by forcing students to let a for-profit company make money off of their intellectual property.

    I have hand-outs, if you’d like them. Just comment back, and we’ll get into it.

    1. I guess I should also be more specific about my situation. My college institution is not requiring that I have an account or submit to turnitin. They are however requiring that I wave my right to protest turnitin as part of accepting the class and allow THEM to run all my papers through turnitin. So I am not personally agreeing or even allowed the choice of agreeing to iParadigms ULA. My instructor or professor is the one that is submitting my material to the site. Not all classes do though. This and one other time are the only classes I have had where it is an issue. In my English 101 basic writing course the professor actually refused to use it and suggested we not.

      It does still beg the question though: does it still fall under transformative in that scenario? I’m not sure. And in the end I am stuck as there is only one other alternative to the class for the requirement and it likely has the same issue.

      I would love any information you can give me. Even if I loose the war, I’d like to go down fighting. I appreciate your time and insight immensely.

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