Composition for Con Artists
Apologies to everyone for falling behind on my posts. I’m going to post several today in an attempt to get back on schedule. Forgive me if I seem to be overflowing with blogginess this afternoon.
Would you teach a course that focused on how to write web hoaxes, fake virus alerts, and other falsified documents? Years ago, I remember writing Ten Ways to Write About Computer Viruses and thinking of adding an assignment that asked students to create a fake virus warning that would trick readers. Ultimately, I decided against it.
I thought about that decision last month when news broke of the teachings of T. Mills Kelly of George Mason University who has created an entire course around writing fake documents and placing them online to trick the unwitting public. His Lying About the Past course was featured this month in The Atlantic’s “How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit.” When I found that title in Google Reader, you can be sure I clicked through immediately. I wrote a newsletter column about the course, and later I posted here on Elyse Eidman-Aadahl’s blog post about the article.
Despite the educational intentions of Kelly’s course, I can’t see myself asking students to embark on a voyage of falsehood, fabrication, and obfuscation. I just don’t think it makes the best course content. I think I'll just plod along with more honest writing projects. I can still find plenty of ways to ask students to think critically about technology and modern communications without teaching composition for con artists.
You can read my full column in the Bedford Bits Ink’d In newsletter.