I have a problem with turnitin.com. This post describes my objection and research in detail, but simply: I object to turnitin.com 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 turnitin.com. 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 turnitin.com 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!
This work is in the Public Domain.
Jessica Dickinson Goodman
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.
[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: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/the-revolution-will-be-twittered-1.html
[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: http://www.schneier.com/essay-016.html
[xii] Wikipedia. (n.d.). The History of Wikiepdia. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia
[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: http://w2.eff.org/legal/cases/SJG/
[xvi] Stephenson, Neal. (1993). Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Dell.
“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