Dimension: Personal Identity: The PI of IP

We call for attention to personal identity, "The PI of IP," as a dimension of IP to reflect that the subject positions writing studies practitioners inhabit always already shape the IP decisions they (can) make. Knowledge making is at the core of what academics do, and different academics assume different positions toward owning expressions of that knowledge. Those positions are inevitably based on different identities&emdash;as academics with different professional positions; as scholars in particular disciplines; as people of particular races, cultures, creeds, sexual orientations, and belief systems; as humans with particular bodies. In other words, perspectives on whether and what property can be owned are inextricably bound up in ways of knowing and being. For IP, such issues can be most visible with digital composing activities of remixing, including what Rodney H. Jones and Christoph Hafner (2012) called "mashing, modding and memeing," the affordances and constraints of which, they argued, include not only what composers can do but also "how we can relate to others, how or what we can think, and, finally who we can be" (pp. 1, 5, emphasis in original). That is, relating, thinking, and being, core elements of identity, foundationally shape approaches to whether and how writing studies practitioners use, integrate, and compose with (other) texts. In terms of IP decisions, for example, these identity considerations may influence choices about what texts can be included in a remix, whether memes are seen as fair use, or whether certain texts can be circulated and shared outside certain audiences.

While we might argue, then, that the issue of identity should come first among the four dimensions we identify—that is, it undergirds the other three dimensions—our study data and research shows that it is perhaps the least explicitly addressed, particularly in the published literature. We tend to hear it discussed more in personal conversations, which perhaps makes good sense, but we also advocate making it visible. And while readers/users might engage the dimensions in any order in reading this webtext, we offer it last in our list of dimensions to highlight its importance and inextricable connection to the other dimensions. That is, in reading, viewing, and listening to this section, we hope users/readers will see echoes of identity in the other dimensions.

Video pedagogical takeaways

Practitioners in the Personal Identity: The PI of IP video remind us that making IP-related decisions entails adopting (or at least accepting) certain identities. Cushman and Baca, for instance, emphasize that current IP (particularly copyright) laws protect Western capitalist interests, and agreeing to abide by them entails accepting and privileging a Western capitalist identity, even if tacitly. Palmquist reinforces this notion in calling attention to differences in IP in international contexts. And they, together with Kennedy, reinforce that the very notion of owning or taking credit for one's work does not necessarily come naturally. Writing studies practitioners have to be taught this racialized, gendered way of thinking. For instance, people of color or women may have a more difficult time claiming copyright over their work.

Based on these interview responses, our larger study, our review of the literature, and our experiences on the IP Caucus, we offer the following pedagogical takeaways for students and colleagues.

  • Read and discuss scholarship on cultural differences regarding ownership, including texts (such as oral histories) that are constructed as part of doing research.
  • Consider how to integrate statements regarding IP with other statements regarding ethics (e.g., honor systems, an organization's ethics statements, codes of conduct): Whose values do they reflect? Are they coherent together?
  • Consider how authors would want their own texts to be used by others, and what the different implications are if their texts are licensed, under traditional copyright, under Creative Commons, in the public domain, etc.
  • Discuss who and what counts as an author in different contexts and compare the answers to professional statements that define authorship, such as the statement from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors known as the Vancouver Protocol.


Listed below are five texts connected with personal identity and IP that we suggest as ways of getting the conversation started about orienting oneself on the IP landscape:

  • 1. Buranen Lise, & M. Roy, Alice (Eds.) (1999). Perspectives on plagiarism and intellectual property in a postmodern world. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • 2. Kennedy, Krista, & Howard, Rebecca Moore. (Eds.) (2013). Western cultures of intellectual property. [Special issue]. College English, 75(5), 461–547.
  • 3. Matthew, David, & Halbert, Debora. (Eds.). (2015). The SAGE handbook of intellectual property. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • 4. Meese, James M. (2010). Resistance or negotiation: An Australian perspective on copyright law's cultural agenda. Computers and Composition, 27(3), 167–178.
  • 5. Oral History Association. (2009). Principles and best practices: Principles for oral history and best practices for oral history. Retrieved from