Michael Wesch and Digital Ethnography

Michael Wesch is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University and he is doing some innovative and significant work on the impact of digital media. Many people probably had their first exposure to him through the YouTube sensation The Machine is Us/ing Us that beautifully illustrates what Web 2.0 is and its implications. The last portion of the video poses that scenario that we need to rethink some things. Two particular aspects of change for this post are scholarly communication and pedagogy.

Wesch’s involvement of his students in the Digital Ethnography project shows a different model of teaching which is much more in concert with the involved content-creating generation he teaches. His presentation to the Library of Congress on June 3, 2008 called An anthropological introduction to YouTube demonstrates this well and brings up even more fascinating developments of perceptions of community and ourselves. The student involvement is a model that I would like to explore further. Wesch explains his philosophy of his concept of teaching as “anti-teaching” and can inform how we can better facilitate learning in our students.

Secondly, Wesch mentions in passing that his tenure committee should take notice of his videos on YouTube and how they have been used. This is a theme I want to explore further and how new media is considered as a vehicle of scholarly communication. Already the format of video has entered the print-dominated field of academic journals with the respectable Journal of Visualized Experiments which is the first of its kind indexed in PubMed. I also want to explore how blogs are used for academic promotion as well as peer-reviewed academic communication. Eric Schnell at Ohio State has a good post that mentions others who are exploring blogging as scholarly communication besides himself.

As a final side note, some of the elements of the [anthropological intro…]video address loneliness and how some find a way to address it on YouTube. It is interesting to hear this when I have heard two different professors express how isolated they feel just this week. The library as place for community does not have to be just physical.


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