Digital Ethnography, What The – ?

If you are a cultural anthropologist you’re probably quite familiar with the term ethnography, it’s a genre of writing that uses fieldwork to provide a descriptive study of human societies.

Michael Wesch is an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. He’s really a media ecologist, and perhaps the first cultural anthropologist to study and teach Digital Ethnography, He gave an excellent presentation to the  Library of Congress last summer called “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”. If you haven’t seen it yet, I hope you take the time to watch it in it’s entirety. Especially if you think YouTube is only for funny animal videos and silly home movies. Trust me, it’s so much more.

I promise, after watching the video below you’ll never look at YouTube the same way again.

Wesch was named National Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2008. Here’s a video of his acceptance speech two weeks ago, including an introduction given by a former student. I really enjoyed hearing Wesch talk about his former teacher, the one that inspired him, Dr. Martin Ottenheimer. Wesch said of Ottenheimer, “He’s the one that inspired this idea that it’s the questions that matter not the answers.” He said his professor “helped me find new questions I’d never asked before. And suddenly I was in this life long quest of asking question after question after question.”

Oh, and of course I have to mention Wesch’s video from January 2007, his real claim to fame on YouTube, “Web 2.0 — The Machine is Using Us,”. I’m sure most of you have seen it, it’s a pretty powerful little piece. His first version has now been viewed more than 7 million times! I’ve included the final version below. It’s short, less than five minutes long.

Michael Wesch looks like a very cool guy. I’d love to meet him one day, or perhaps even sit in on one of his lectures. Maybe if I did my own version of the Numa Numa or the Free Hugs video and dedicated it to him I will get his attention and he’ll invite me come and audit his class.

4 thoughts on “Digital Ethnography, What The – ?”

  1. You are certainly welcome to sit in on my classes anytime! But if I don’t see you in Manhappiness Kansas, I’m sure we’ll keep running into each other in the twittersphere.

  2. Well thanks professor! When in Kansas, I’ll stop in for sure, now that I know I’m welcome.

    Re: the twittersphere, I started following you today in fact. And I looked, but didn’t see any podcasts from KSU available through iTunes University. I’m hoping that some your classes will be recorded and available for download in the future?

    Thanks again for commenting!

  3. well done on demonstrating how to reach out and contact someone formerly a stranger ;)

    this is why you’re my favorite social media consultant :)

    Did you see his other one InformationRevolution?

    I like it even more.

  4. Thanks Ross! You really know how to sweet talk a girl.

    Yes, I did see, and LOVE the Information Revolution video. I didn’t realize you had posted about it though. You’ve got so many great posts, guess I need to dig around your little blog goldmine more often. Especially now that you’ve become even more prolific in 2009!

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