Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Michael Wesch Keynote at 2011 Heartland eLearning Conference #heartlandconf11

These are my notes from Dr. Michael Wesch‘s keynote at the 2011 Heartland eLearning Conference on March 8th. Follow him on Twitter: @mwesch. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Book recommendation: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum

Critical moment for me in my own teaching
– 7 years ago I was interviewing for a job at K-State
– as part of interview process, had to address a large classroom of students
– question was: can this person handle teaching a class of students this large?

Michael Wesch at 2011 Heartland eLearning Conference

I’ve been wrestling with this question for 7 years
– students passive and quiet in a lecturehall
– students at an American Idol concert

It’s not just about this generation
– the key thing students are involved in: meaning-seeking
– that is true for all of us
– we live in a society in which meaning and identity are not givens
– our society is filled with almost limitless choice
– this means we have to find out own identities

If you pay attention to the questions students ask, you can really get a window into what they are learning

References to video: “A Vision of Students Today

There is literally something in the air
– digital artifacts of about 2 billion people are literally floating all around the room

We know we are headed to this world of ubiquitous connections and communication, but our educational systems are not built for this
– most elearning courses have been built on old models

I suggest we move from getting our students to be knowledgeable to being knowledge-ABLE
– find, sort, analyze, criticize, and ultimately CREATE new knowledge
– that is the only solution for our students to thrive in this new environment

Knowledge-ability is stepping beyond 2 buzz words
– steps beyond “critical thinking” (it’s important, but we must go beyond it)
– beyond “information literacy” (again, we must take a step beyond both)


A lot is at stake, and I want to paint a picture of this by showing you the disruption that a new medium can have in the society of Papua New Guinea
– by metaphor, we’ll consider what changes are behind the curtain now in our society

Culture shock is a total loss of self
– we think of identity as an internal thing, but it is actually reflected back from others
– when you are around people who have no reference point for who you are, it’s like you become a baby again… you have to recreate yourself
– it struck me how different it is to grow up in a world which is unmediated
– I started focusing on what it is to grow up and create an identity in their world and ours

New media came to them in the form of books from the state government
– census, law books, maps
– a lot of the people in the village didn’t have names, they knew everyone they saw (mother, sister, friend, etc.) and they were more focused on relationships than names
– they started mapping out their villages on paper, and tried to create them in the real world

the book in a way rewrote the culture

The people who become empowered are the people who controlled the new medium
– the elders were powerful with oral history, but that becomes dis-empowered next to the power of writing and the power of the book
– people would look back at the changes which happened and say they didn’t like what happened
– they got trapped in the beauty of the writing, the goal of making their villages fit into these neat and clean rows
– the

Medi are not just tools or means of communication, they mediate realtionshipos: who can say things, how it’s said, how it’s stored, who can access it, etc.
– every medium has its own biases
– they mediate the relationships in our societies
– media changes, which changes relationships, which changs our society

look at televisions: suddenly we’re all facing the the television
– the remapping of the American dining room

Neil Postman’s analysis: a culture is made up of conversations between people
– in the past they were designed for the few for the consumption of the many, made entertaining, 30 seconds of interruptions

Think of the MTV moment:
– I was very much a part of the MTV generation
– interesting to see what pepe were saying about my generation: short attention spans, materialistic, want to be entertained…

“in the midst of a fabulous array of historically unprecedented and utterly mind-boggling stimuli..whatever.” (Thomas de Zengotita)

A brief history of “Whatever”
– pre-1960s: had about six meanings “Whatever. That’s what I meant.”
– late 60s: “I don’t care. Whatever” (could use the world as a standalone statement, you could use it for your identity to say you can stand apart from the system/society)
– this version has stayed with us to the present day
– 1990s: MTV Generation: the indifferent “Meh”
— Simpsons picked up on this
– Late 90s to present: “Whatever. I’ll do what I want.” (first version: Valley Girl wave)

Idea in the past: you have to be on TV to have a voice, to be significant

American Idol: It’s easy to understand why so many people want to be on the show
– there are so many people who think they ARE the next American Idol
– cultural movement of boomers moving into 70s, onslaught of self-help books and self-esteem movement
– benefactors of the self-esteem movement

We’ve never had higher self esteem than we do now in our country
– 1960s 10-12% of people would say they are a significant person
– now that statistic is around 90%
– that is a big sign of cultural shifts

Book: “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before” by Jean M. Twenge

new books now on quarter life crisis”
– people feel like they should be really important by the time they are 25

this is the search for identity and recognition, in a society where those things are not givens
– our environment today whey we can search for and find our identity, it is so different

Video from Dove commercial: Onslaught – “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”

TV is still the dominant media today
– critical thinking is a real life skill we need to develop

Amidst new social media environment, people want to focus on information literacy

My video I tried to create about this a few years ago: A quick history of text – The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version)

Think how eBay has transformed
– eBay
– Zilok for renting, not selling
– Swaptree (now Swap) – can register everything in your house you might want to swap with people, and you pay shipping

The Internet is the long, slow death of the middle-man
– 10% of loans in the next decate will be person to person, with sites like Prosper

Devices like Square to let you accept credit cards

New media shaping governance
– governance now is almost entirely based in paper
– Do Tank: Democracy Design Workshop (use new technologies

Summary of today: “a ubiquitous, context-aware, semantic, social network, of things, people and information”

processor in an umbrella that costs 51¢ today, did cost $4000

real-world objects becoming hyperlinked
– QR codes, RFID


Traditional media literacy: watch your sources, be aware people can be tricking you

example of faked video from Queen of England
– you’re seeing a really interesting harnessing of new media to make a strong statement
– our students should be able to do this to be actively media literate in today’s society
– created by the “Yes Men” – they try to hijack identities of large corporations and then correct them

They got on the BBC and took over the Dow Ethics website, BBC announced “Dow accepts full responsibility:
– Dow stock dropped $2 billion on that news
– this demonstrates the power of working the media

Maxine Greene: the social imagination
– moving from information literacy to media fluency
– navigating and moving to Digital Citizenship (Gardner Campell)

Examples: a hero from our mediated culture
Free Hugs Campaign
– it’s ridiculously easy to start a global social movement
– then you get spoofs ($2 for Deluxe Hugs)
– a lot of spoofs, commentary and talking back gets very serious

Interesting remix of Dove Commercial: Dove Onslaught(er)

This is a critical moment in our history: these tools can be used for more freedom, or they CAN be used for more control


can lead to participation and engagement
– also can be tools for rampant distraction

I think Neil Postman would write a book called, “Still Amusing ourselves to death”

We can no longer blame big media for our problems
– this new media environment is what WE MAKE of it

Now showing “What These Walls Say…” (A Vision of Students Today)

Ultimately these walls (of our educational institutions) say: Obey the authority
– see post: Sending The Wrong Message

Story of Jeffery Ahmed (?)
– inspired by Greg Mortenson
– quits Notre Dame and moves to Bangladesh
– starts nonprofit, tons of YouTube videos, engages for global donations

Videos remixed via OpSound– global collaboration
– this music is an example of the best scenario of what we can do with our new media environment

Eric Whitaker: composer

Tufts university role in Ushahidi
– rescues in Haiti
– OpenStreetMaps created by thousands of volunteers
– quotation from Clark Craig, US Marine Corps about people being saved every day

3 part solution
1- engage real problems with our students (ones we don’t know the solution to – so we have to learn with our students
3- Harnessing and leveraging these tools not because our students think they are cool

our students are not as literate as you think they are, esp when it comes to educating themselves and changing the world with these things
– they are good at entertaining themselves

I hope a new definition of “Whatever” will emerge: I care and let’s do whatever it takes to effect change.

Michael Wesch and Wesley Fryer

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2 responses to “Michael Wesch Keynote at 2011 Heartland eLearning Conference #heartlandconf11”

  1. Nick Noakes Avatar

    How did Wesch describe “beyond critical thinking” and “beyond information literacy”?

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    He believes (and I agree with him) that to be fully media literate today, we need to become effective as well as saavy media producers– not just remain consumers. That was my understanding of how he suggests we move “beyond” critical thinking and info literacy. They should be active pursuits, not just passive ones.