Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Cutting Room Floor

Kudos to Virtualpolitik pal and SCIWRITER partner Mark Marino for spurring a lively conversation about race, technology, and teaching in the vlogosphere.

Last week, Marino's provocative video response to Michael Wesch's A Vision of Students Today was written up in the Wired Campus online edition from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article, "Dueling Videos: Scholar Creates Remix of Another Academic's YouTube Hit," quotes Marino as saying, "My little video certainly hasn’t caused a tidal wave, but it has caused conversations on various blogs and message boards."

Wesch himself points out in a blog entry that responds to Marino that there was a shot of a student of color holding up a sign that said "There is More to Me than just MY RACE!" that was not included in the final video. As Wesch explains, "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."

From Wesch's comments we are invited to consider two interesting aspects of the video that may be obscured by the way that it presents itself as user-generated content that was collaboratively created by systematically creating an electronic document that served as a source text. We learn that comments on the students' signs may have been spontaneous day-of-filming performances that respond to the face to face dynamic of interacting with the camera as a piece of technology rather than products of the Google doc we are shown animating with updates and alterations in the film. We also learn that Wesch made conscious decisions about editing out some shots in the film for the final version of the public piece. As Marino has suggested, it may have been more interesting to give all two hundred students access to the database of clips and see how they would edit it together differently.

I showed both videos in my presentation on Teaching Social Media at TechnoExpo 2008 today as a preview to talking about student social media-making in my digital rhetoric course. I showed the first video and asked the "notice anything?" question to the audience. It's interesting that students who are shown the film instantly comment on the whiteness of the supposedly typical students in Wesch's videos, while their teachers do not see it immediately.

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Blogger Professor Wesch said...

I sense some sort of implicit critique of our work here - but it seems misplaced. Obviously there is nothing we can do about our demographics. I thought the students did a wonderful job of calling attention to digital divide issues by noting the relative cost of their laptops to global income levels, etc. As I have noted before, we cut the race issue out because we felt that it deserved its own video - not that we wanted to do away with it altogether. Frankly, I think race is a rather limited lens for understanding the digital divide and participation gap - an important part of the analysis, but not the whole thing. In short, the race issue is bigger than the digital divide issue, and the digital divide issue is bigger than the race issue. Neither encompasses the other, and both would be mistreated if limited to the other.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

Dear Professor Wesch,

I think these issues are complex. My critique actually had more to do with your methodology and the representation of user-generated content than with Mark's original point about race.

However, having recently dealt with the challenges of shaping collaboratively authored student work so that the final product works as public rhetoric, I'm actually quite sympathetic to your position.

I hope we'll get a chance to continue this conversation some at the DIY summit this weekend.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Mark Marino said...

Re: my original point about race.

Does my video (or any video) have just one point? Is Wesch's video not (also) about race?

One of the ideas that underlies my (2) video responses to Michael's work is to move beyond any one point we think the video wants to make. I'm trying to underline some points that I see in his videos.

Maybe this is my lit. training, but I see these videos as making a lot of points to a lot of different people, which is why we need these important and elaborated discussions on weblogs (such as this one) and in person (at DIY!)-- and which is why I like this idea of writing back by remixing or mashing the video itself.

2:29 PM  

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