1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

U.Va. Anthropology Alum to Lecture on New Media 'Fieldwork'

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch will give a presentation on "The Art of Learning in New Media Environments" on Monday at 4 p.m. in Clark Hall, room 108.

After two years of studying the implications of introducing written language to a remote indigenous culture in a Papua New Guinea rain forest, Wesch – who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia several years ago – turned his attention to the effects of social media and digital technology on global society.

It took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the advent of the printing press, and a few hundred again before the telegraph arrived. Today, a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new Web application. A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges, with new types of conversation, argumentation and collaboration.

Using examples from anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea to YouTube, Wesch's presentation will demonstrate the profound, yet often-unnoticed ways in which media "mediate" our conversations, classrooms and institutions, applying these insights to an exploration of the implications for how we might need to rethink how we teach, what we teach and who we think we are teaching.

Dubbed "the explainer" by Wired magazine, Wesch has made videos on culture, technology, education and information that have been viewed by millions, translated into more than 15 languages, and are frequently featured at international film festivals and major academic conferences worldwide. He has won several major awards for his work, including a Wired Magazine Rave Award and the John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in Media Ecology. He was recently named an "Emerging Explorer" by National Geographic. He has also won several teaching awards, including the 2008 CASE/Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year for Doctoral and Research Universities.

To see some of Wesch's work on YouTube, click here.