[iDC] MLK Day post

Mark Marino markcmarino at gmail.com
Fri Jan 25 18:01:18 UTC 2008

Quick note,
Michael Wesch has just posted a response to my video on his blog:

In it, he writes:

As pointed out by
> 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:
[The Caucasian-looking student holds up a sign that says, "I am more than
just a face..."]

This was immediately followed by this:
[An African-American-looking student holds up a sign that says, "There is
more to me than just MY RACE!"]

I can understand why Wesch feels that this last message might "overshadow"
his video, but in some ways, I feel like it the scene overshadows the video
even more in its exclusion.  The cut-scene certainly shows that there was a
conscious decision about whether or not to make "race" an explicit issue in
the video.  However, it's notable that race becomes an explicit issue only
when one of the few (only?) African Americans in class points it out.

This might be one of the few examples of "you tube" deleted scenes having so
much impact on a film.

I hate to drag the film into the very topic Wesch was trying to avoid (or
really, preempt, since he said the topic of race deserved a video of its
own)-- but again, perhaps moments like these remind us that our discussions
of technology in society are never (and cannot be) just about the


On Jan 20, 2008 1:27 PM, Mark Marino <markcmarino at gmail.com> wrote:

> IDC-ers,
> On the commemoration of the birth and life of MLK, I wanted to turn our
> attention to the practice of remixing and the issue of race with this video
> response to Michael Wesch's "A Vision of Student's Today." (
> http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ln6WUy29fAA)
> (Re)Visions of Today's Students
> http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ln6WUy29fAA
> A little context first
> Michael Wesch has produced two widely publicized videos.  The first, "The
> Machine is Us/ing," has been the subject of discussion for quite some time.
> The second, "A Vision of Students Today." has received less attention, but
> still about 1 million views.  Liz Losh mentioned the film here <
> https://lists.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2007-December/003015.html> as an
> illustration of in-class use of Google Docs.  Wesch's says this video "was
> originally created as Part 2 of a 3 part series on Higher Ed. Part 1 has
> been published as Information R/evolution
> <http://youtube.com/watch?v=-4CV05HyAbM>" <
> http://youtube.com/watch?v=-4CV05HyAbM>.
> Recently I've been considering these two videos, "Us/ing" and "A Vision,"
> in light of each other.  The one seems to capture the excitement some of us
> feel about various new software applications (mostly in free beta release).
> It creates a dream-like celebration o the software that is part of that
> contested and derided category (Web 2.0).   That first video seemed to
> give us a teaser for today, a trailer for contemporary technologies in which
> we are the full-access subjects, the transcendental eye balls floating
> through all levels of media (from code to interface), able to make the
> internet dance. This was the video that established Wesch as an authority on
> these topics.
> The second video focuses on one of these technologies, Google Docs, but,
> by contrast, also brings in images of human users.  If the voice of "Us/ing"
> is a timeless, bodiless voiceover, in "A Vision," that bodiless commentator
> (made of text alone) shares the screen with the faces of some of the 200
> other contributors.   What's more, because these students are represented
> not merely text, we now have something else to contend with: their bodies.
> These are the bodies of "Students Today," though perhaps that title should
> be qualified to "students in Michael Wesch's KSU class room on the day of
> the recording."  They are more than just color-coded user-names
> collaboratively generating a document.  They are human subjects.
> As the video proceeds, these students become a (low-affect) medium for the
> information from the Google Doc.  With nonplussed faces, they hold up
> placards that reveal statistics about the state of their computer use and
> their other academic habits.  The implicit suggestion is that these students
> are not what we expect and that they are different from those who came
> before them.  They Facebook in class.  They buy expensive books they never
> use.  A number of these students have laptops.  And they are a wall of
> white.
> It is their image of their raced bodies that carries so much information
> and yet goes uncommented.
> Of course, Michael Wesch doesn't have to deal with every topic every time
> he makes a video, but I would argue that the homogeneity in the featured
> students' appearances communicates something about race, even if that was
> not the intention.  This isn't to rehash representational politics but to
> comment on what happens when Wesch's subjects go from social software to
> sample students.
> Now it's not that the video isn't representative.  Surely, KSU doesn't
> have anything to apologize for.  It's demographics are not too different
> from state demographics with respect to race and ethnicity. It's economic
> diversity also shows its openness. (Nor am I suggesting that other
> universities get the mix of diversity better.)
> But this video isn't about KSU.  Part of the problem may be that due to
> the success of Wesch's Web 2.0 video, this "Vision" has taken a kind of
> hegemonic weight.  Again, its title offers the video as an image, albeit ONE
> image, of "students today" (in America, presumably) and in the process
> ignores its own implicit message about race.
> My first reaction is: I'm not surprised.  In my experience, white students
> do not tend to think about race. As one professor has pointed out to me
> elsewhere, students from homogeneous environs don't nec. think about race
> with the same frequency that students growing up in more integrated environs
> do.
> My second reaction is: I'm concerned.   How often do our conversations
> about "this generation" of internet-using, always-Googling, Facebooking
> students drop questions of race, or the questions of access or
> institutionalized discrimination that underlie them.
> For my mock-up, I attempted to use Wesch's collaborative technological
> approach from "Us/ing" to remix and rewrite "A Vision," not as a "gotcha,"
> but as my own contribution to that Google Doc and a small reflection for MLK
> day.
> <http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ln6WUy29fAA>
> Of course, the critique doesn't merely reduce the issue to black and
> white.  There are many other groups that don't appear in this video (though
> might even be in the room).   The critique is that the group does not notice
> or comment on something that becomes quite central to the display
> technology.
> The fundamental questions that interests me here are: How do questions of
> technological possibilities obscure questions of access?  When we think
> about spreading media literacy are we first thinking about the students that
> already have high degrees of access?  Do euphorias about new technologies
> and the participation they afford obscure other questions about
> opportunities to obtain literacy or about technological use varying among
> communities?  Does the sense of our new generation of technology users lead
> us into much older traps of universalizing our observations or falsely
> homogenizing our image of our students?
> By the way, Wesch has offered the following responses to criticism and a
> thread for even more feedback here:
> http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=124  and there is much more on his
> blog.
> Wesch has also included a link to the Google Document here:
> http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dfnq2hd6_26cs5w6j
> Here's a link to a further discussion of my video at WRT:
> http://writerresponsetheory.org/wordpress/2008/01/20/a-revision-of-students-today-remixing-wesch/
> **Remixing Videos**
> I also wanted to use this post as an opportunity to discuss the practice
> of remixing videos. Liz Losh has produced her own remix of video content in
> the context of military maneuvers:
> http://youtube.com/watch?v=X2AOX9Al8Sk
> She also uses the video to comment on itself, here by inserting other
> images.
> These kinds of videos suggest ways of response we can, of course, take on
> with our students.
> Anyway, these practices of writing back with some of these emerging
> technologies may be great tools for our politics of resistance, to our
> agitation for change, which seems a fine topic for MLK day.
> Best,
> Mark Marino
> --
> Writing Program
> University of Southern California
> http://WriterResponseTheory.org
> http://CriticalCodeStudies.com

Writing Program
University of Southern California
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