May 2, 2008

Anti-Lessons In New Media

Posted in University tagged , , at 2:45 pm by Andrew McMillen

I’m sitting in class, waiting to learn. The lecturer’s attention turns toward me when he asks for a critical reflection on a course reading that we’d been set a fortnight ago.

“The young man in the green shirt. Give us a summary of the reading’s content.”

“I didn’t read it.”

“You didn’t read it. There I was, sweating blood with my colleague while writing this chapter several years ago, and you didn’t read it.”

I forgot to mention – he co-wrote the article in question. His tone is more sarcastic than argumentative.

“Do you have any reason or explanation for this?”

“No.”

“Did anyone else in this man’s group read the article?”

They had. I appreciated the lecturer’s reasonable approach to the situation. If I’d been in the same situation with the course co-ordinator – who happened to be sick on this day – he’d have spent at least five minutes attempting to belittle and antagonise me. I’ve seen him do it to others in the class. It’s disgusting. It’s an example of extremely poor marketing on behalf of the School within the University that he represents. Ripping into students for their omissions and oversights is counter-intuitive to the enjoyable learning environment we’re ostensibly here to experience.

This entry is less about what might be perceived as an act of academic rebellion on my part, than the fundamentally flawed nature of studying ‘new media’ within an archaic institution.

After some viewpoints were expressed by members of the class regarding the statement at hand – “does the nature of web-based technology bring people together, or push them apart?” – the lecturer asked for a show of hands for people who agreed, disagreed, or were neutral. Mid-way through this exercise, he looked at me again.

“You haven’t read the article, so you don’t have an opinion.”

By tilting my head slightly downward, I acquiesced to the lecturer’s superiority and power, which he seems to value above giving his students the chance to express their opinions.

This is fine.

I have no problem with keeping my mouth shut in academic situations. The chance to observe and analyse the responses of my classmates is far more profitable than sharing my thoughts – which would have been in agreeance that the nature of the internet brings people together.

Since the cost of all information – including information about individuals in the form of social networking profiles – approaches zero, we are generally able to gain personal knowledge and interact with each other more easily than ever before. You’ll note my definition of ‘closer’ doesn’t include physical touch, but a less tangible connection between individuals that is symptomatic of the nature of web-based communications.

Clearly, this isn’t a fully-developed opinion, but it’s on-par with the arguments raised by my classmates.

While sitting silently and observing my classmates – each of them endeavouring to become the “communication professionals” that my lecturer talks endlessly about – I wryly made the point in my mind that I didn’t read the text: so what? I’m interacting with some of the most forward-thinking, intelligent individuals in the world, on a daily basis. In my mind, their opinions and reactions to developments in the world of new media are worth far more than the ironically outdated opinions of a ‘new media’ lecturer.

Do not mistake this as a personal slight on his character – I like the guy, as he’s generally amusing to listen to – as I mentioned earlier, his approach is characteristic of the fundamentally flawed nature of attempting to write tertiary education courses based on an industry that evolves faster than he could possibly write textbooks.

Fuck textbooks, and fuck course readings. If I were in charge of co-ordinating such a course, I’d prescribe neither. Beyond the classroom, I’m a student of new media for my own enjoyment. I’m learning about literally world-changing events as they occur, and contributing several brushstrokes to the incomprehensibly large canvas that the web provides.

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2 Comments

  1. John Pana said,

    “we are generally able to gain personal knowledge and interact with each other more easily than ever before”

    I often wonder just how this is going to affect us, not just socially, but physiologically.

    We are in an age where we can have a unmatched insight into someones psyche, through blogs, youtube or even a google search. How will this affect the evolution of human development and interaction?

    Do you think that there is a system we can move to that accurately reflects most successfull biological principles of adaptation of open source evolution through collaboration and peer productions (wikilulz)?

  2. Excellent point, John. I’ll address it in a future post. Thanks for the feedback!


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