It is so crazy to see how our online world has changed over just the short 22 years that I have been alive. As the online web has changed, so has our world and us as human beings as well. This new culture of participation is truly like some sort of phenomenon. Any regular person, just like you or me, could create something for free with only our own two hands, that is more successful and shared worldwide than some of the biggest corporations! It is so amazing to me the way that any normal person can find fame overnight by sharing something on the internet, and it being shared all over the world, with tons of different people seeing it and being connected to one another. There are so many examples of the wonder that is the internet, that I could get into, but I am sure most of you get the idea.
For my EDTC 300 class we watched Michael Wesch’s Video called, “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”. In this video he outlined the spread of one of the very first popular digital memes. Furthermore, he went on to explain in detail how this represented new forms of collective expression and celebration being created. With the expansion of the internet and peoples’ access to it, this has created new forms of expression, community, and identity. With the creation of YouTube specifically, regular people were for the first time, able to easily upload new and original content through videos onto the internet. In the video, Wesch demonstrated how quickly something one uploads online can spread worldwide and connect so many people. In reference to the spreading of popular memes and people recreating their own versions of them, which only extends the reach, he states, “they start to look less like an infectious joke than a new cultural order… they were not mocking him but venerating him”. When others replicate memes online, they are continuing to spread the happiness felt in the very first creation of it. Using the internet to do this gives people a means of documenting this happiness, and making it available for the world to see, for the world to feel.
In the video Wesch states this can be seen as a “celebration of global connection transcending space and time” creating “new unimaginable possibilities”. The internet has allowed us to connect in ways that we have never connected before and in ways that no one could have ever thought possible. Even as we speak, people are out there creating new ways to connect with people (often through this replication and spreading of content), as it is becoming easier and easier to do so. This is a really important moment in time that I think all people need to take note of. Wesch mentions how it forces us to rethink so many concepts of our lives, including ourselves and our identities. He mentions how the web is not just about information, but it is about linking people in ways that we have never been linked before and could have never previously imagined, as new tools are constantly being created to do this. What we so often see online now is all user generated- content, filtering, distribution and commentary. We are now in this new culture of participation where we are all a part of the bigger online picture just by watching, sharing, replicating, etc. this content and connecting ourselves to others who are doing the same. By doing this we become integrated in the large mediascape (connection between all forms of media) upon which we all live in and as Wesch mentions, is actually centered around us. Without us, none of this would be possible. What is so amazing to me is how this user generated content is now often surpassing the big corporations who spend millions of dollars to reach people. Media is no longer just content, or tools of communication but it is mediating human relations and “when media changes, human relations change”.
I think that this is all extremely relevant when it comes to teaching and the evolving environment that is the classroom. As Wesch mentioned, the change of media has forced us to rethink every single concept of our lives. This undoubtably includes education. In this new networked, participatory and digital world that we live in, I think the classroom can benefit greatly from the grand opportunity that comes with this constant connection to others. Teaching is not a career that anyone can do completely on their own. As teachers, we are always looking for ways of collaborating with other educators, other professionals, parents, etc. This new digital world has made networking easier and more accessible than ever before. As teachers, we are now being presented with the opportunity to expand every aspect of our teaching from lesson plans, flexible seating, our philosophies, instruction, assessment, etc. You name it! Everything is constantly changing, evolving and improving and we now have direct access to be entirely involved and connected to know what is going on, what other educators are doing, and what seems to be working! Now, with all this new information being presented to us, it can definitely be overwhelming. This is why it is important to be aware of new trends and ideas, but also be able to pick what works for you, practice it, and get really good at it. This can definitely be a consequence of our forever changing online world; it is so easy to be constantly stimulated all of the time and feeling as though you need to be doing and understanding absolutely everything, which is just not the case. The best way to balance these challenges of our new digital reality with the possibilities that it also offers is to be actively involved and aware of what is going on, but to also be capable of taking a step back, seeing that what you are doing is working, and feeling success in that.