Visions of UMass Students Today

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?)

59 thoughts on “Visions of UMass Students Today”

  1. Kenny say’s “nowadays students can remain entertained just by staying in their buildings.” It is true that Mr. Chadbourne doesn’t talk directly about entertainment in his video, but he does talk about how he was on facebook killing time and talked about video games. Also, technology is a huge source of entertainment which I would assume is what he meant. Kenny’s quote also reminded me of the Fish bowl conversation with Seth Gore and what he said about technology. I don’t know the exact words but he said when he was younger he would hang out with his friends at some place; they would go there and hang out. When instant messaging services and other social sites came around, people started connecting more online. Kenny then uses Nick Jablonsky’s video, “he doesn’t use music for the entire length, but instead displays some dialect between some other people and himself. This was original for our class and portrayed how at college, you are almost always around or right next to other people.” Seth and Chadbourne also talked about a balance about using online social interactions and being social in life. There is a lot of clutter in today’s world with all the social sites we have to deal with, what we pay attention to and what we don’t, and what distracts us. Ideology doesn’t help but contribute to the clutter of everyday life. I understand better how Ideology works, but I am more interested in how we can use ideology more in a worldview in our final projects

  2. After hearing what everyone has been saying in class and then reading what they’ve said in this discussion there are many different ideas and thoughts floating around. I agree 100% with Alpal13 when she commments “the only reason some students fear it is because of certain sectors of the media TELLING us to fear it. There are a countless number of books and magazines and newspapers that tell us to fear technology! Like I have said all along, we only have these thoughts and opinions because of the influences that surround us”. One of the main reasons that our class me included feel this way is because that is what we are trained to think. If there was never anything that portrayed technology in a negative light, would we all still see it in a negative light? I’m not quite sure however what I am sure of is that we are all born into a world that has already been running and we are forced to fall into place with it, adapt and believe what we are being told. So I believe that if we were never told technology was bad and harmful we may have never believed it. We would simply view technology as another aspect of the world we were born into and not asked questions.

    Sgershalk also references Nfoy’s video and comments on his use of Charlie Sheen and how it references competition/ “winning” as an example of articulated idealogy and how it connects to both competitiveness and our “need to adapt” as Steph says. I think this a great example that Sgershalk posted and it directly relates to AlPal13’s idea of having a final project video that doesn’t only pinpoint one way of thinking but presents many ideas and lets viewers decided.

    Steph asks “The question is, are there other frames for achievement and success, or only this one?”. I believe yes there are other frames for achievment and after reading everyone’s input. I believe that AlPal13’s video idea is a way to prove and answer Steph’s ending question.

  3. I think Stephen is completely right and I never would have looked that much into the videos but it’s interesting to see just what we are exposed to online even when it’s something we aren’t looking for. I remember the scene of the xbox screen, and they were scrolling through the frames and you saw all of Xbox’s adds for new games and demos, also you saw it’s capabilities like netflix. Just by going online what do we see when we open a homepage? headlines on news, pop culture, sports, studies, and statistics. some that we may never be interested in but yet it is thrown in our face in big bold, sometimes colorful letters. Some users even choose a different homepage like facebook, or espn, or whatever it is they are interested in. By doing that we close ourselves off in a way from the news. Sometimes really important news. I remember people saying all the time that they feel closed off at college. They’re so busy doing they’re own thing like their studies, watching sports, going on facebook, they don’t even really know what’s going on in the world. We may even be dumbing ourselves down in a way by closing ourselves off to what would appear to be common knowledge, and only paying attention to what we are interested in, which is what directly affects us. I feel a reason for this is, that what we are exposed to is usually bad news, which has been chosen by whoever to be important news. You rarely ever hear good things on the news, or in headlines. we’re exposed to negativity all the time through the media we search for the things that make us happy, our interests and hobbies. These headlines not only show what we are exposed to, but it tells something about our generation. Each headline in our films tells a story, which is why they are so important.

  4. In response to Kenny & Steph’s post, I thought it was interesting that he brought up the talking scenes in Nick’s video. I think that was very different from anyone else’s in the class, and that really proves what we see every day. When everyone else added music to theirs it gave it a certain tone that they wanted to display. (as mentioned in earlier conversations either pessimistic or optimistic) but with the raw footage of them talking it really gave it a different spin. Also, I think that when he discusses our issues with staying focused that that can tie in with his lack of use of music. When the music isn’t playing you really focus on the dialog that is going on between nick and his friends. I know that when I’m in my room we usually always have music playing in the background and maybe that is the reason why I am constantly distracted.

  5. The class has various points of view when it comes to technology. Although some people think they are on one side, either for or against technology, most people don’t realize they are on both sides. They should support it but also fear it. The people who have very definite feelings about technology are influenced to feel that way by various sectors of the media. Our project should not be just another one of those aspects of media telling us to feel one-way or the other. We should provide our viewers with the information they need to make their choice of either the blue pill or the red pill. As a class we still need to decide on our PAM- Purpose, Audience & Message. I think it has been decided that our audience is our generation. I believe the purpose of this project should be to show our generation how technology can help, but why we should still fear it. Lastly, the message should be let up to the viewers to decide.

  6. Although I am supposed to be replying to Steph’s post to Kenny I cannot help but notice the posts before me. Including AlPals and DemiFo14. They are talking back and forth to each other creating an entirely different discussion within the current one. After seeing this is opened my eyes to the fact that we have been creating ocnversations within conversations, so What is the real conversation? Is there one? We are all move so fast and change our minds and what we talk about to really understand what it is we are talking about. I myslef by writing this post am straying away from what I am supposed to be responding too and enevitably starting an entirely new converstation. I thnk that this idea or concept is what we need to portray in our videos in order to create that sense of “unicornism.” AlPal13 mentions putting everyones messages into the video instead of focusing on one specific message. And maybe she has a point, except instead of everyones messages, I think it should be all of our conversations. Becuase those are what have brought us here today, what we are saying and why we say it. I’m not sure whether it is articulation, juxtaposition or ideology, could it be all three? Is that even possible I’m not sure. But our conversations are what is important to our message. And if we are tryingt o create a porject that leaves viewers wondering i think that we should use the conversation method. This way we are starting the conversation but never finishing it, because in the end is a conversation ever finished? I would like to say no to that because in my opinion somebody can always say something more. THis is were these post have lead me. I know that this is not relevant to Kenny’s post but it is relevant to our class and there posts.

  7. When Kenny talks about Mr. Chadbourne’s video, he is assuming that Mark is entertained by everything that his room has to offer. I think this is a fair assumption because Mark is surrounded by his technology and he never hints at the fact that it is insufficient or does not provide him with everything he needs.
    The new tools used to tell time could mean that time today is critical and we do not have any to lose. We need all these different devices to remind us of what time it is because time is so important when it comes to achieving success and accomplishing everything.
    The fact that Nick does not have music in his video can show how important verbal communication is and how it is equally as effective as music at conveying a mood.
    As for the juxtaposition of what is and isn’t useful, I think it is saying that face to face communication is key in society although it is losing much of its value today.

  8. I really like what Stephen said about “agenda setting.” Too often do you notice the media’s sway of information toward one topic or opinion, and a complete media blackout of other topics, rendering the public confused and often shielded from stories and pieces that they might have had a previous interest in. In recent weeks, there has been a huge civil uprising by public workers in the midwest, demanding that a bill not be passed that would cut their collective bargaining rights and essentially cripple their ability to keep wages fair and employment stable. Yet, as soon as the events in Libya started, it was like no one even remembered all this happening. The publics attention can be so easily aimed by the media its scary.
    How events, news, and content of life is “articulated” to others is everything. And that is the essence of communication. Its not what is being told, but how. The person in the room with the megaphone will always be heard first and most clearly. What he is saying may not always be right, but it is certainly the easiest to listen to. And sadly, in this world, that person is the mainstream media.

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