(Re)Vision of Students Today collaborates with Michael Wesch’s Kansas State students, who, according to the megapopular video, used Google Docs to collaboratively edit a document, essentially conducting a survey and, presumably, designing the video itself.
Wesch’s students’ video offers itself as a glimpse of today’s students. However, unlike Wesch’s even more famous Web 2.0 video, “The Machine is Us/ing Us,” which seemed to both capture and promote an image of technoculture, this video offers itself as an image of contemporary students (not “KSU Students Today” or “American Students Today”) without reflecting on its own particularity, its own demographics.
Following up on his highly played and first Web 2.0 video, Wesch focuses this video on how today’s students have changed with respect to their relationship to classroom technologies and technologies brought to the classroom (such as laptops, cell phones, and pens). In the video, Wesch uses superimposed quotations and other comments to make a point that seemed implicit in parts of “Us/ing,” that technologies offer new possibilities but do not completely eclipse or erase previous technologies. I’ve tried to make that clear in my previous YouTube reaction to Wesch (Web 2.0…We Respond To We/sch). In that case, Wesch used a highly mobile pencil. In this case, he juxtaposes contemporary technologies with that pre-eminent display technology — the blackboard.
Further, his students also become display media. Or rather, they show the ways in which they can us any surface, including the walls of the room, as sites of inscription, means of participation, directly contrasting the blank screens of their faces and their reports of less-than-full class participation.
While Wesch raises these tensions and some very valuable questions, his use of students’ images, of human bodies, instead of merely inscription technologies, introduces new issues that the video does not address, namely issues of identity: who are the collaborators, who are faces to represent students today. Overwhelmingly, they are white.
Now we have two pieces. We have representative students who have been brought into this exciting networked collaboration (made more enticing by Wesch’s deft use of screen capture), and we have the overdetermined image of their racial homogeneity which (most importantly) goes uncommented in the statistics in this course on digital ethnography.
My critique is not to suggest that the video needs to correspond to KSU or even Kansas demographics, which are much more white than Southern California. But I think this moment clarifies the ways in which discussions of new educational technologies can get so caught up in “the wired generation” or Generation Twitter, that it loses site of the continuing digital divide and that picks up the time-honored project of universalizing whiteness.
Having been Us/ed by the Machine
This video response attempts to use the ethos and technology of Wesch’s “Us/ing” video to question the very inclusiveness of that “Us.” Many of those commenting on the YouTube thread seem to see these students as the epitome of the U.S. “us.” Even one of the students in the video makes note of the student beside her who is absent from class. What of the student who is absent from the university?
This video uses YouTube (perhaps a Web 2.0) and Camtasia and Garage Band (not so Web 2.0). Mine is a kind of intervention that cannot be done very cheaply (since Mojiti was recently swallowd by Hulu), and it can certainly be done with more gloss by those on the film/video side of things. But sometimes the quick and dirty tagging on the wall communicates better than the museum piece.
So where does this leave this conversation? To what extent does the euphoria over networked culture take over in exclusive environs?
[Musical note: the song in the background is my homage to U2’s “MLK,” and the video is an homage MLK himself.]