Using Generative AI for “Uncreative Writing”

The proliferation of generative AI such as ChatGPT has incited a season of pedagogical storms across college campuses, all too often leaving little dry land between panic and panacea. This workshop aims to harness these turbulent winds in attending to how generative AI might be used to teach writing in the college classroom. Understandably many instructors are concerned with their students using generative AI as a way to not write, not read, and even plagiarize. By practicing techniques of “uncreative writing” like cut-ups and patchwriting, attendees will gain new understandings of how to reframe questions of plagiarism and generative AI in their classes.

Some guiding questions attendees will work through together include: What provocations available to “uncreative writing” can help us challenge the specter of plagiarism in our classes? How can the practice of remixing, appropriating, and borrowing language allow us to rethink the role of plagiarism and academic integrity in college classes? What if the process of moving information and remixing language were our starting points instead of intellectual property and original authorship? How can flipping the switch on plagiarism provide teachers with a means to redress concerns around ChatGPT and its ilk?

This workshop took place in person in Fall 2023. The workshop and materials were developed by Zach Muhlbauer and Jeff Voss


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains notes, an outline, and the slideshow for the workshop.

Materials Folder:

Workshop Agenda

  • Constraint-Based Free Write: 

Free write on how you’re thinking about generative AI in the classroom. As a teacher, what worries and/or excites you about tools like ChatGPT? Only one catch: do not modify, edit, or delete words once you commit them to the page, like you’re writing with the constraints of an antique typewriter. Take ~10 minutes to write what you can, then paste the results below [instert Google doc].

  • The Specter of Plagiarism
  • The Oulipo Group & Uncreative Writing
  • Getting to Know Generative AI
  • Collaborative Patchwriting Activity
    1. Open the document from earlier containing each of our free writes
    2. Remix the existing language into a new, cohesive piece
    3. Resist the urge to add original language to the document as you go along
    4. Be imaginative, have fun with it, and don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense!
  • Souped-Up Patchwriting
    1. Navigate to ChatGPT or an equivalent AI text generator (e.g. Bing, Bard)
    2. Use the prompt below as your seed input:
      • Assume the role of a patchwriting program designed to remix text fragments into a uniform piece of writing without introducing any new language. Briefly prompt me for material and ask me how I would like it remixed.
    1. Describe how you want it remixed, then paste either all or parts of our patchwork doc
    2. Introduce new constraints or edit the seed input as you see fit!

Tip — ask it to be “creative” or “experimental” or even “random” to really watch it go to work!

  • Discussion

How do the AI outputs compare with your perspective on past versions of the doc?

How did ChatGPT mimic, rationalize, or depart from our collaborative patchwork?

What are some of your takeaways from today’s workshop?

How do you think uncreative writing can reframe traditional notions of plagiarism?

How can constraint-based writing lead students to use GenAI more intentionally?