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Published by Michael Galvin
here I and a colleague condense our notes from 2 presentations Michael Wesch gave to the George Mason Community as the keynote at our Innovations in Teaching and Learning conference on the Fairfax campus. We shared this on our Office of Technology Integration blog as professional development (recommended reading) for our student affairs division.
here I and a colleague condense our notes from 2 presentations Michael Wesch gave to the George Mason Community as the keynote at our Innovations in Teaching and Learning conference on the Fairfax campus. We shared this on our Office of Technology Integration blog as professional development (recommended reading) for our student affairs division.

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Published by: Michael Galvin on Nov 13, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The following text is drawn from notes taken during two presentations by Professor MichaelWesch at George Mason University on October 3rd and 4th of 2010, as he participated inMason’s Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference. The conversation is around the ways and means and pathways that can serve to take educatorsfrom knowledgeable to knowledge-able. The more we get to know about our students (and weshould be students of them, for we must know the ways they make sense of their dense digitalmediated social networks and their place in the world), the more we realize that they, unlikesome prior generations, are meaning-seekers. Unfortunately they are seeking meaning whileexperiencing dual existential crises.What am I going to do with life? What am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to learn?Their search is for both identity and recognition, two notions that can be both at odds andcomplementary to each other, depending on the context and the press for authenticity. So, the best way to get to study students is to pay attention to the questions they ask in theclassrooms, in your offices and in the “commons”. Half of the students surveyed in Michael’sclassrooms testify that they do not like school, but all of them report that they like learning.Where is the disconnect? Educators must come to understand, as we grasp the variety of digital interfaces that mediateour students’ relationships and the density of their social networks, that there is something in theair, in and out of the classroom: the digital footprint of billions of people in near constant contactwith each other. So we ask, what’s at stake? Dr. Michael Wesch spent considerable time doing research inPapua New Guinea. As an anthropologist, Michael was amazed do discover the relationshipbetween identity and media. In Papua, there was no media. What about identity in those terms?Many of the villagers when Michael arrived had no names; they had no need for them. Their identities were clear as they were solely in relationship to other villagers. Then the New Guineagovernment decided that they needed to know who these people were, to count them for acensus. This required the assignment of names. All of a sudden, everyone had “proper” names,which they referred to as “census names”, and now the census is re-writing the society. Thelaw shifts from relationships to individuals creating an “authority” class; those that are chosento learn to read and write and count, and hence qualified to make decisions for the village.Reading and writing empowers only a few, elevating them to a position of increased power andauthority, an elite. All of a sudden there is media. Media changes the power structure. And,while everyone is overpowered by it, not everyone is enjoying the situation. There is no “optingout”. Media of any sort mediate relationships. Media change, and relationships change, resultingin change in culture. Niel Postman declared in the mid 80’s that we were “amusing ourselves todeath”.Michael notes that people want to be on TV because they want to be seen as significant, andposes the question of why we think any given person ought to (or ought not) be on TV. This
desire to be seen as significant is an outcome of the self-esteem movement. He uses theterm “Generation Me”, not in the narcissitic sense, but in the sense that the current collegestudent generation is searching for identity and recognition.We know ourselves through relationships with others. New media creates new ways of relatingto others, and therefore new ways of knowing ourselves.So, we need to rethink things. We in the academy point to the need to teach critical thinkingto mitigate the negative effects of media, but that is not enough. In this new age, we need togo one step further and help our young people find relevant information, and offer the toolsto block and filter the plethora of that which is irrelevant. We need to rethink Commerce,as it’s already gone beyond our common notions. Look ateBay(buy anything),Zilock(rent anything),SwapTree(trade anything),Prosper (borrow from real people), and the “Square (accept credit card payments on your smart phone) as examples of new models. We need torethink Government, look atDoTank, who says “the Do Tank strives to strengthen the ability of  groups to solve problems, make decisions, resolve conflict and govern themselves by designingsoftware and legal code to promote collaboration.” We need to recognize the things that areubiquitous; a context aware semantic social network of things is evolving around us, things thattalk to each other.Michael spoke to us about the extensive use of video, especially via YouTube, as learningtools and change agents. He particularly makes note of the Numa Numa video(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60og9gwKh1o)and the ways in which this video became a world-wide cultural touchstone. There were so many remixes, remakings, and everyone seemed toknow the original work.He and his students find a YouTube video...a Dove Soap commercial, for example, type “pwn”before the “youtube” in the url in order to download the video via “Sony Vegas” (a video editingtool), then edit and combine the original video and audio with other video to make videostatement. We need to emphasize moving beyond informational literacy toward creation;toward “meta media fluency” and digital citizenship.The notion of digital citizenship opens up significant opportunities for development alongpolarities: from openness to control, self-determinism to surveillance, community to isolation,participation to distraction. We are already seeing new media producing results along thesespectrum, from the wonderful to the tragic. Michael claims that YouTube offers the “freedomto experience humanity without fear or anxiety,” or the opportunity for connection withoutconstraint.Students believe that learning is about acquiring information, not transformation, and thatinformation is a scarce resource, the control of which is a source of power and authority.Micahel quotes Marshall McLuhan sayin, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shapeus.” Michael suggests that we look at a few on line projects that are examples of innovationsin media: UP: The Uncultured Project. com, particularly at Shawn’s postings and use of media

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