MLK Day Post: On (Re)Visions of Students Today

Mark Marino recently made a thoughtful and thought-provoking mashup of A Vision of Students Today in honor of Martin Luther King Day:

As pointed out by Mark, the “vision” our video hoped to portray was more limited than our title suggests.

We tried to include pointers to these limitations by including the statistics about inequality and the digital divide within our original video.

In the spirit of Mark’s critique, I thought I would share with you a scene that did not make the final cut – not because it wasn’t worth showing – but because it was so important that it overshadowed some of the other issues we were trying to raise.

On the day of filming, several students had ideas emerge right on the spot. Whenever they had an idea they would write it down on a piece of paper and hold it up for the camera. While we were reflecting on the size of the room and the anonymity this creates among students, one student held up the following sign:

I am more than just a face.
This was immediately followed by this:

I am more than just my race.
It was a powerful moment, and the sign itself defies any simple reading.

Wesch

Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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19 Responses

  1. Nels says:

    With my bad eyes, I can’t read what’s written on the orange. What does it say?

  2. Prof Wesch says:

    “There is more to me than just my race!”

  3. Mark Marino says:

    These are powerful images. I can see what you mean about how they could overshadow the video, though perhaps they overshadow the video by their exclusion, as well.

    This is a problem I’ve been reflecting on lately. This question: When does the energy we use to explore and publicize new technologies pull us away from addressing (or even create) the digital divide?

    One answer I’ve been exploring lately is the idea of different cultures of technological usage (something your video implies with or without these two shots). These cultures would be segmented not nec. by race but by use-practices of the community. Emphasizing the difference in practices might help keep our overall Web 2.0 discussions from assuming a universal subject (which is again, ironically, what your original video was trying to demonstrate).

    In any case, I think we must at every times remind ourselves that there is more than just one face of the today’s student. Something about the seeming racial homogeneity of the original video makes it hard to see the very differences represented by the statistics the students held.

    But to return to this question of faces. My video response was engaging with the shear force of faces in your video. I like the “more than just a face” sign because it calls attention to the communicative power that “faces” (in media especially) possess. The student could even trouble it more with “I’m more than just my face.” These students are much more, but at the same times their faces become something more, too, when they are grouped together in the context of the video.

  4. I think Mark has a great point. Although I thought this was a great video, I was also struck by the there were zero faces of African descent in the video. My first thought was, “Kansas U must be really white!” And not I’m pretty upset that this was edited out. I think your message could have enhanced your message by pointing to the diversity of ways in which higher education dehumanizes its receivers by offering limited perspectives and dehumanizes those who become sifted out of the system by neglecting to acknowledge the sources of knowledge they have to offer…

  5. Chuck says:

    This is an interesting moment. Like Mark, I would have liked to see it make the original video, but I do understand the decision to exclude it. Having taught at a variety of universities in recent years, I’ve become acutely aware of the variety of student populations that are out there.

    I really like the videos a lot, especially in the way that they illustrate how lecture halls and other spaces “teach” just as much as we do, but I’ve been trying to figure out precisely what makes me uneasy about the style of the videos, and perhaps it’s a tension between sameness and difference that I haven’t quite been able to articulate in terms of whether the students are speaking “collectively” when each individual holds up a sign or whether the individuals are meant to represent competing experiences with the (technologies of the) classroom.

    It’s an interesting tension, I think, but one that runs into some of the interpretive problems that Mark addresses in his video.

  6. DocMara says:

    While I appreciate the dialog you are fostering in this forum (and in the larger arena), I think that what continues to be missing from this discussion are issues that elude the worries of a typical middle-class American undergraduate. The quips, anecdotes, and facts held up by these students have already been discussed ad nauseum. Student debt, anonymity, facebooking, multitasking have all been mulled, debated, and even celebrated. The media that the students use seem to perpetuate a perspective that this is both what matters, and that there is little to be done (except, perhaps, snicker when someone like Nicholas Negroponte and groups like OLPC fail to break these class mirroring paradigms). There isn’t a digital divide, per se. Merely old divides merely reinforced and reinscribed in digital media. How do you not just turn the camera, but hack the camera to usefully unite viewers with producers rather than just shuttling people between the two poles?

  7. Prof Wesch says:

    DocMara,
    That’s a good point. The digital divide is just old divides in new media. If you read about our World Simulation project, you will see that we are deeply involved in trying to understand these issues in ways that can actually effect change. We are just one small part of a global movement turning one-time viewers into producers. We can’t do it all in one 5 minute video. If you have a way to “hack the camera” just do it. Join the movement. The tools have never been cheaper or easier to learn. Many of the students you see in this video are now all over the world, volunteering and learning about what they can do to help. No snickers here. Just people doing their best.

  8. Mark Marino says:

    DocMara,

    I wonder if both of the videos aren’t attempts to “hack the camera.” There’s a lot of graffiti going on here and a lot of viewers writing back to the producers, through their input on Google Docs (the hero of Michael’s video), through the students’ participation in making the video, to my hacked screen capture, to the comments of those writing on these threads. I just get concerned about the height of the walls for entry and if there are ways we can bring more into the discussion by reconsidering “cultures of technology usage.”

  9. Kristen says:

    Just a quick comment: both KU and KSU are heavily white. Not that that makes race a non-issue, but I thought someone should state that fact.

  10. Tiara says:

    Oh wow!! I wish I had seen that orange sign sooner. My culture has been tokenized in academia (well, when it’s ever mentioned at all) and the big disconnect I have with academia (at least with the Creative Industries in my uni) is that it assumes that the West knows all and that what the rest of the world does is simply quaint. Asia gets reduced to Japan, and the rest of the world apparently doesn’t exist. I’m not the only person that’s felt this; most of the other international students I know feel this too. I end up being the defacto “well according to MY CULTURE” person EVERYWHERE, and while it’s fun sometimes, it can also be tiring.

    I’d love to see a video made just with signs similar to “I am more than just my race.” Hmm, inspiration…

  11. Phockcoxy says:

    This succumed the fragility to turn pulled towards my cement and my behalves were stretched brazenly away from my asshole.

  12. Here in Brazil, teachers are not prepared for any new kind of didatic methodology. The before mentioned “digital divide” should be called “information divide”. It’s not a technological issue, it’s more about sharing (or not) valuable information.

  13. Kids, this is how you write a post! Clear, concise and full of info. Would you happen, by chance, to teach how you craft your articles? :)

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