Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In the Footsteps of Ted Carpenter

Michael Wesch is an outstanding media ecologist who comes to us from the field of visual anthropology, and is presently an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. He is a true heir to Edmund Carpenter (the anthropologist who was McLuhan's closest collaborator at the University of Toronto during McLuhan's formative years in the 1950s (and who McLuhan brought with him when he was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Chair of the Humanities at Fordham University for 1967-1968), and in fact Mike's doctoral dissertation involved fieldwork that took him back to the same tribes that Carpenter had researched in the 60s--Carpenter observed their reactions to the introduction of modern media such as the photograph, sound recording, and motion picture. His website on Edmund Carpenter, entitled Virtual Snow (Snow is Carpenter's middle name), is an excellent resource, and includes the text of the book in which Carpenter discussed the New Guinea research, along with many other insights about different types of media cultures, from the oral and tribal to our own; the site also includes a link for ordering the outstanding documentary made by visual anthropologists John Bishop and Harald Prins about Carpenter (which includes footage Carpenter shot in New Guinea), and I very highly recommend the film for anyone interested in culture, visual communication, and media ecology. That documentary won the Media Ecology Association's 2004 John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in the Field of Media Ecology (I've been the coordinator for the MEA awards since their inception), and while we have not made the formal, public announcement, I don't think it would be a problem to mention on this little blog that this year the award will be going to Mike Wesch for his enthralling Youtube video entitled: Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us. This video, which is about the nature of new web-based technologies collectively known as Web 2.0 (which includes blogs, youtube, etc.) has already generated a great deal of buzz on the Internet, but if you have not seen it yet, you're in for a treat. You can click on the title above to go to Youtube directly, or screen the short film below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Lance
This is wonderful news. Mike has not only stepped across the threshold into hyper-space (as hundreds of millions of cyber-travelers have done already), but is also a creative participant observer in that bewildering environment. Indeed, I am so grateful that you took the initiative to invite Edmund Carpenter to give the distinguished lecture at the Media Ecology Association in Manhattan a few years ago. It was not only his swan song (as a public speaking performance), but this event also provided an opportunity for Ted and Mike to meet. At Ted's apartment, Mike showed his video footage shot during his doctoral fieldwork in the Upper Sepik in Papua New Guinea, which really intrigued Ted, as it transported him back to places where he himself had filmed in 1969-70. Indeed, notwithstanding his legendary reclusive habits, Ted invited Mike to join him and his wife Addie de Menil for a special celebration dinner after the conference.
Anyway, much appreciate your own tireless efforts in support of a new new field of studies and your welcoming spirit towars colleagues across the disciplinary divides.
I much regret I cannot be in Mexico for the event, as I have plans to be in the Gran Chaco (shooting a documentary with another former student of mine, Lucas Bessire, now a doctoral candidate at NYU who is doing challenging fieldwork with a newly-contacted indigenous community of Ayoreo Indians).
Anyway, great news.