I went to see Dr. Michael Wesch present last week at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. While his name may not yet be a household word, his viral video on YouTube, “The Machine is Us,” may very well be. Published in February 2007, the video has received 3,634,385 hits on YouTube, as of this morning.
Wesch is back with two new videos.
In A Vision of Students Today, students from his classes surveyed themselves and presented the results in an interesting and captivating way. Here is a preview of what you will see in the movie, (made in I statements by the students):
- 18% of my teachers know my name
- I complete 49% of assigned readings, only 26% are relevant to my life
- I buy hundred dollar textbooks that I never open
- I will read 8 books this year, 2,300 web pages & 1,281 facebook profiles
In Information R/evolution, Wesch contrasts the old ways of storing and organizing paper information with the new digital information age. Excerpts from the video include:
Wikipedia has 7.5 million articles from nearly 283,000 contributors (as of Oct 2007)
We organize the information ourselves which is stored without folders or restricted categories
We no longer just find information; we can make it find us
The release of both videos occurred in the same week as Wesch’s presence here in Minnesota. Here are some notes I took from his talk, which closely followed his Information R/evolution video:
• 91% of YouTube videos is original material; there are 71 million blogs, and 60 billion emails. Less than .01% of information today is on paper
• Blogging teaches us that anyone can be a creator of content; Wikis show us that our information can be better than the content of professionals, and RSS feeds have taught us that information can find us
• We are still using the assumptions of paper information in our current teaching:
o That information is scarce, something Marshall McLuhan noted in his 1967 book, The Medium is the Message (which came out when I was a sophomore in high school)
o That information requires experts
o That information is a thing (i.e., book)
o That information is located somewhere (on a shelf, in a folder)
o That information is categorized
Today, he said, we originate materials ourselves, without folders and without bounded categories. We don’t need complex hierarchies to find information and links alone (and social bookmarking) are enough.
So what’s the lesson in the ubiquity of new digital media, according to Wesch?
It’s the students who will be deciding how information will get sorted and prioritized on the Web. It’s their clicks that determine what gets on the front page of Digg or gets most tagged on Del.icio.us. It’s how we train them in media literacy that is key. He imagines two possible scenarios for the future:
- We don’t adequately train our students in media literacy, in which case the vast amount of information will be produced by a handful of people who have the money to push out information they want us to see. At which time, info WILL again be scarce and we’ll see even more advertising.
- We do adequately train our students, in which case we get lots of information and content creation from many people. This will be fertile ground for librarians, who can then play a key role in creating informational value in the links.
To adequately train them, among other things, Wesch said we need to teach students how Google, for example, works – where first-returned results can be the product of those who pay their way to the top. We need to teach them how the filters work so they can be better informed.
Links to learn more about Dr. Wesch:
His bio at KSU: http://www.ksu.edu/sasw/anthro/wesch.htm
His blog, Digital Ethnography: http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/
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