[Air-L] MLK Day reflection

Mark Marino markcmarino at gmail.com
Sun Jan 20 00:17:12 PST 2008

I wanted to offer a reaction to another Michael Wesch video, a slightly less
popular one than the "The Machine is Us/ing Us" (4 millions views)
but one that nonetheless has garnered a fair amount of critical attention
and particularly classroom attention (1 million views). His video is called
"A Vision of Students Today." <http://youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o>

My roughly tagged response: (Re)Visions of Students Today (

In his "Students" video, Wesch presents the collaboration of 200 of his
students on a Google Document, a subsequent survey (in that Doc), and a
video.   This video features some of the same sexy footage of software with
dazzling tech-enabled collaboration.  Wesch may be the Annie Liebovitz of
Screen Capture.  (or Martin Munkacsi?)

Key to this video is a subversion of expectations about student habits as
well as what we might mean by "classroom technology," since his supertitles
evoke the development of (non-electronic) blackboards and his students hold
up pieces of notebook paper as display technologies.  The video is a marked
contrast to his "Web 2.0" video, particularly in tone and an sense of

On the other hand, this video includes another subject left out of his Wesch
2.0 video, people.  The "students today" are represented by the non-plussed
(or low affect) students in his class, holding placards of observations from
the survey.  Their statistics reveal information about their use of
technology, which is a focus of the course's "digital ethnography" I'm
assuming.  The dour suggest to me a sense of resistance -- certainly not the
"ain't this cool we're making a video" face I'd expect.  More like a: "hey,
don't think you know how I use the internet or my traditional educational
technologies" look.

[Actually, many of the comments I read in the YouTube threads seemed to
focus their hostility on the students themselves, particularly as
representative of an apathetic or spoiled American middle class]

When watching this video about "Students Today," which features white
student after white student, I can't help but wonder why the students don't
comment on race.

On the one hand, the video offers just "a vision" as in one vision of
students.   However, I read Wesch's title as having broader implications,
bordering on universalism.  As in "Come see what typical students look like
today" or at least  what a representative sample looks like today.

Even if his video doesn't claim to be representative, the fact that the
video about student use of technology does not mention what to many of us
might be so apparent is indicative of certain trends in discussions of Web
2.0, trends I've recently been discussing with Elizabeth Losh of UC Irvine
among others:  the trend to create a vision of some imaginary Web
2.0student, one that does not take into consideration differences in
or access.

What do we risk when we leave out race or even socio-economic class?  I
think some on this listserv are answering this question with their research.

It's just something I'm thinking about this MLK Day.

More on this discussion here:

Wesch has also printed some responses and further discussions of his video
here: http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=124#more-124

Mark Marino

Writing Program
University of Southern California

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