Friday, April 22, 2005

Random scholarship

A few months ago, three MIT graduate students designed a computer program to write a "scholarly" paper. The program used an algorithm that borrowed from existing scholarship and inserting buzzwords at random. Then they submitted the paper, and it was accepted at a conference. The paper was titled: "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy." Its introduction begins: "Many scholars would agree that, had it not been for active networks, the simulation of Lamport clocks might never have occurred." (The conference withdrew its acceptance after the fraud was publicized.)

I bet the same thing could happen in legal scholarship. At least until recently, law reviews seemed to signal that the longer an article and the more footnotes it had, the better. I bet that a reasonably long article on an arcane subject with tons of footnotes would be accepted somewhere. In particular, I wouldn't be surprised if someone randomly generated a piece in the utterly indecipherable field of critical legal studies (I'm still not quite sure what it is) and the resulting paper were accepted somewhere. Actually, that may have been why critical legal studies died out -- no one could understand anything anymore and decided to just move on.

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