Copy and paste is a computer tool that has been around since the early days of the personal computer. We find it for example in the first Apple computer, LISA in 1983. When one of its two inventors, Larry Tesler, died in February 2020, the international press hailed Tesler’s “revolutionary inventions”, which included copy and paste. However, despite forty years of existence and use by computer users, no monographic and theoretical study has yet been carried out on copy and paste, so that it remains a tool to think about in our writing devices.
Considering that the writing professions give us a privileged access to the mutations of writing devices, we study, in this thesis, three forms of professional writing and their relationship to copy-paste: journalistic writing, academic writing as well as French and English-speaking conceptual poetry.
According to a survey conducted by the economist Julia Cagé, with Marie-Luce Viaud and Nicolas Hervé (L’information à tout prix, 2017), the French online press in 2013 consisted of 64% of articles that were copy-pasted from other articles.
Universities, for their part, are faced with numerous plagiarism scandals, both in terms of obtaining degrees and writing scientific articles. The Academy’s only response seems to be to « discipline and punish” by focusing on the results of copy-pasting, but never on the reasons, or even the writing processes, behind its use. Copying and pasting is also present in academic writing in circumstances other than plagiarism, when it is a matter of inserting a quotation or a bibliographic reference into a text for example. Copy and paste has consequences on our ways of writing that we will study in this thesis.
To do this, we will take as our basis the development in French and North American conceptual poetry of practices known as “uncreative writing” as named by Kenneth Goldsmith. We propose to study the writing potentialities of these poetic forms in order to think about the tools of writing.
To do this, we propose a particular methodological framework that we call Scriptural Studies. A disciplinary field that mobilises both the tools of literary studies and the contributions of media studies and anthropology, in order to study contemporary writing practices. From this perspective, poetry writing is not ontologically different from other everyday writing practices, but it is a tool for thinking about the gestures of writing and reading through the disconcerting experiments it offers us.
How does copy and paste lead us to think about textual hyperproduction and the acceleration of society in the digital age? How does copy and paste fit into the history of writing? How can we think through the existence and functioning of a documental ecosystem? What does it teach us about writing and new ways of reading (or not reading) in the age of social networks? These are the questions that our doctoral thesis addresses.
Allan Deneuville holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris I), the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris and a master’s degree in literary creation from the University of Vincennes-Saint-Denis (Paris VIII). He defended a thesis on copy-paste in co-supervision between the École Universitaire de Recherche ArTeC under the direction of Yves Citton, and the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) under the direction of Bertrand Gervais. His research focuses on the acts of writing and the circulation of texts and images in the digital age. He is co-creator of the research and creation project “After social networks”.
Thesis directors: Yves Citton (université Paris 8) et Bertrand Gervais (UQAM)
Doctoral school: ED Pratiques et Théories du sens (Paris 8)