[SIGCIS-Members] Reminder: Things you post to this list are archived and public

Lee Vinsel lee.vinsel at gmail.com
Wed Oct 8 17:42:20 PDT 2014

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your well-worded reminder. I am a lurker on this list. I have
never written to it before, but it has taught me a great deal over the last
two years. Occasionally, as is the case on any list like this, someone
writes something on here that makes me think, "Oof. Well, I wouldn't have
put it exactly *that* way on a public forum." So I heartily agree with your
point: let's be careful with our words and remember that what we say here
is public.

I have several friends who either have gone or are going through the
Harvard History of Science program, and by all accounts, Janet Browne is
both a nice, good person and a scholar of the highest caliber. Still, I'm
not quite sure why she felt the need to intervene in this case, as I have
seen nothing inappropriate or inaccurate said here about the Morozov-Medina
affair. (I assume this is the case Browne is referring to.)

I have lots to say about this matter, but instead I would just like to ask
a question: what could it possibly mean that this situation is "now

There's one possible meaning to this phrase that worries me a great deal,
namely that the problem has been handled through private, "back" channels.
It reminds me of a famous, perhaps apocryphal story in Science and
Technology Studies. In his essay, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Bruno
Latour," Simon Schaffer leveled a number of interesting and profound
criticisms at Latour's overall project. Reportedly, Latour responded by
showing up to Schaffer's house with a very nice bottle of wine, under the
effect of which the two settled their differences--privately. As Will
Thomas has argued, this "solution" leaves much to be desired, especially
since Schaffer's criticisms seemed to be on the mark and demanded
answers--public ones. (

Of course, intellectual differences are not the same as questions of
ethical violations. (I have not used the word "plagiarism" when referring
to the Morozov-Medina situation, and I would have questions for anyone who
did.) All the same, I do not believe that the issues with Morozov's _New
Yorker_ article can be handled in a private manner. As much as my response
to this situation arises out of sympathy for Eden--I would feel awful if I
was the victim of such "borrowing"--the issue at hand is the violation of
academic norms. At the very least, the wrongs of such violations are done
at the level of communities of inquiry (I would go further and say that
they are done at the level of humanity), not just the level of the

To date, Morozov's public responses have been defensive to the point of
bordering on arrogance. Moreover, the New Yorker has not made any
apologetic statements that would satisfy this wrong. Furthermore, we can't
invent new genres like "high brow journalism" to explain away violations of
long-standing norms of scholarship.

If my thoughts above track, there's no way that this situation is "now
resolved," at least not at the public level. I am, however, perfectly
willing to be proven wrong.

Regardless of all of this, I look forward to future lurking here on SIGCIS,
and I wish to thank all of the contributors, who have taught me so very,
very much.



On Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 6:55 PM, Thomas Haigh <thaigh at computer.org> wrote:

> Dear SIGCIS members,
> SIGCIS recently received a request from Prof. Janet Browne at Harvard to
> take down from our “blog” two recent “posts” alleging plagiarism. She feels
> that they are no longer needed as the situation is “now resolved,” with no
> evidence found of plagiarism in either case as everything was done in
> accordance with the genre norms of “highbrow journalism.” I have explained
> to her that this is an umoderated listserv, not an edited blog, and that
> SIGCIS has no editorial role. We have never had such a request before, and
> the SIGCIS EC is currently exploring its policy implications.
> However I do want to give you a reminder that everything posted to
> members at sigcis.org goes immediately and without moderation to more than
> 350 people around the world, and that all messages are permanently archived
> and open to the public. This is in contrast to a blog, or a threaded
> discussion board where posts can be edited and deleted. So before you
> “reply all” just take a second to think about what you are doing and who
> might read it. After you click “send” it’s going to be up there on the
> interweb forever.
> You will also notice additional text pointing out that opinions expressed
> are not those of SIGCIS appearing at the bottom of each new message.
> Best wishes,
> Tom
> _______________________________________________
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Assistant Professor
Program on Science and Technology Studies
College of Arts and Letters
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Twitter: @STS_News
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