Midterm Video Projects for”Media and Culture” (COM121)
submitted to Michael Wesch’s Digital Ethnography Project:
Visions of Students Today (2011)


“It is appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

Six students use this famous quote by Albert Einstein, comparing their experience of today’s technology glut with nuclear disaster.” Why are they so afraid? Einstein is an interesting source of wisdom, especially combined with Kimdelehanty‘s quote from another scientist, Carl Sagan:

“We live in a society

exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which

hardly anyone knows anything about

science and technology.”

What was the setting and context of Sagan’s quote? “Hardly anyone” implies a ratio – who are the people included in “everyone”? Whose society is encompassed by “we”?

MrChadb0urne argues that Change Isn’t All Bad: “Technology’s not that bad, if you use it in moderation.” In a soothing voice, he offers this advice: “If it’s too much, take a break. No one’s gonna judge you for it. If they are gonna judge you for it, they’re too involved in technology and they need to calm down.” BrittRoo agrees, offering individual, meditative-type solutions: Balance. Slow down. See. Breathe.  AlPal13 suggests immersion,  “First step… drown out the rest of the world [with music].”  Hannah Cohen asks, “…if you can’t beat them, join them?”

“We no longer search for the news, the news finds us.” Demifo14 hints at narrowcasting and plays with identity as a reflection. Her mirror imagery is partly explained by wbectler3: “Like all structures, [technologies] have been developed by humans and, subsequently, both enable and limit human action” (wbectler3 quoting from the course text).

“Better hope you’re not alone,” sings Jack Johnson-Hope to beccasiminoko’s lament for fifth grade. tashk013 poses the question about choice given the unrelenting advertising bombardment, and kalf917 brings in Karl Marx: “The production of too many useless things results in too many useless people.” But what if it is up to us? “We become what we behold, we shape our tools, and then our tools shape us,” jakehoffman4 quotes Marshall McLuhan. Ktrychon questions and celebrates simultaneously, arguing “You Get What You Give,”and  “Let’s Stay Connected,” while claiming: “We live in a society that lacks passion.” (Where does passion live?)

Does cdanoff’s being “Caught Up In The Media” automatically preclude passion? Or is it only education that fails to inspire? “My teacher was having trouble figuring out the projector in class…but then finally figured it out.” It is unclear what csilv117 thinks about that struggle. Two students picked the same song by Citizen Cope, “Let The Drummer Kick,” to emphasize the war for consciousness. Two students (jakehoffman4 & mamciedupie503) also picked the same quote by Marshall McLuhan: “All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.”

Artificial and Arbitrary?

How do you spend your time?” asks ddavies315, while hdanfort wonders “What were they thinking?” Both questions are posed literally, but can be extended to apply in wider fashion. Jamar points to rescue from hip hop artists Kid Cudi and Common, and gets a call out from the premier digital ethnographer and creator of the Visions of Students Today video documentation project, Dr Michael Wesch. Dr Wesch also commented on tashk03 and Ktrychon’s videos (previously linked). Air23JordanXXIII, please feel free to tell Ryan, no sweat – I got a spot for him in my next class, you bet. “Ducks!

Who remembers the course prompt and our transmedia storytelling model? sbaez1440 pulled out a quote from The Matrix that omits a physical sense: “If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” Why might this be of interest?

The most challenging task as we move toward the two final projects will be deciding what articulations to emphasize (ideologically) and how much experimentation to conduct. What could we gain, for instance, by exploring the nationalism of natefoy’s “God Bless America” screenshot with Carlos123Mencia’s dormroom poster of Malcolm X?” Does it come down to a decision about whether or not we believe, as Hunte46 asks, if we can defeat the machine? Is competition the only frame possible? Is “the real danger … not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.” – Harris (quoted by smorlando3). Will we see/perceive differently enough if, as ckmetz suggests, we take the red pill? Sgershlak tells us we must adapt to succeed, but what adaptations are a) necessary, b) realistic, and c) ultimately functional? When simultaneity is the rule of the day, as when Csi describes seeing all three phases of water, “the vapor, the rain, and the ice” at the same time, how do you decide what truly guards you?

In the comments to follow, students will be responding with observations and identifications with various juxtapositions and articulations presented or hinted at in the preceding teacher’s analytical sampling. They’ll be working with the patterns and outliers evident in this collection of our class’s Visions of Students Today to produce two final videos.


Spaces (transportation):

  • hallways (also stairs, elevator, doors)
  • roads
  • walking versus driving, skateboarding
  • outdoor shots of campus, esp library
  • indoor shots of library, dining hall, dorm rooms, classrooms (large lecture halls, smaller classrooms), dorm entrance (security), gymnasium, campus center, kitchens, Collegian staff office
  • computer monitors, cell phones, television/videogame controllers
  • music

Time (temporal dimension – where identities are made):

  • statistics
  • activities: FaceBook, UMail, Spark, Spire, Tumblr, Twitter, UMassWiki, Google, news, iTunes (and other music apps), basketball (viewing and playing), XBoxLive, classwork, eating, texting…

Content Themes

  • control
  • time
  • the Matrix
  • pros/cons of technology (some exaggerated claims & stereotypes)
  • dread/hope (“key” – from Hymes’ rubric for analyzing an interpersonal situation communication situation; what equivalent analytic for video?)