Like many young adults/online marketers/nerds, I process ghastly amounts of digital information every day. By process, i mean read, watch, listen, write, organize and communicate. Because I spend so much time and energy with this information, it’s pretty rare that something really surprises me any more. Oh there is the occasional blog post here and there that gets me thinking, or the new service or product that intrigues me, but there is simply too much information regurgitation (data puke, if you will) among the contributers in my industry.
Michael Wesch, however, astounds me.
He is the Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University. You have almost certainly seen his most famous video, The Machine is Us/ing Us, which was released in January 2007, and became one of the most popular videos of the time (even beat out the Superbowl commercials). If you haven’t watched it, you should do that right now. Seriously. While you are at it, you should watch another of his videos, Information R/evolution. They are only 5 minutes long; take the time.
So why is he brilliant? Why does he astound me? There are a lot of reasons. I think the most important is that he has really figured out a way to speak to me that is unique, powerful, and thought-provoking. He has a message that he is trying to deliver, and the medium he designed to relay that message is so perfectly suited that it exponentially adds to the validity and power of the message itself.
The other thing is that the message he is trying to portray (as I understand it) is something that I can relate to and have felt but not been able to internally articulate. The nature of communication has changed, and the systems and processes for things like storing data and teaching are no longer sufficient. The internet has substantially and permanently changed the world.
I also think is a bit interesting that, at least with those two videos, his primary method of communication is text. There is soothing background music, a few pictures and faces, but really what he is trying to say is written down. It’s especially powerful to bring his point across about the changing nature of data and text, by showing data and text changing. Brilliant!
Oh, if you have some serious time, here is a 55 minute presentation Dr. Wesch gave at the Library of Congress in June called An Anthropological Introductino to YouTube. It will likely change the way you look at video online.
What are your thoughts on Dr. Wesch’s work?