Tuesday, February 13, 2007

When Everyone is Famous

All day today, whenever I had a moment where I would drift into a momentary daydream, I was getting into pretend, or as I like to say, practice, arguments with people. The primary topic was an issue that surfaced in a New York Times article from Corey Kilgannon (Teenagers Misbehaving, for All Online to Watch).

The imaginary arguments in my head notwithstanding, articles like this one draw attention to a very easy issue to be alarmed at, and when I read pieces like this I can't help but think that inevitably readers are writing off youth culture and signing up to permanently block sites like YouTube or Photobucket from their town's school district. Quotes like this one form Dr. Adesman point out the fundamental difference between traditional student mayhem and today's version:

"Teens have been doing inappropriate things for a long time, but now they think they can become celebrities by doing it,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

The technology has trickled down into the hands of students, whereas in past years it was primarily in the hands of journalists, or at best, the random witness to a crime. The shock I remember at the first glance of the Rodney King video would hardly register today. Why? Is it that violence has risen to a new level of ubiquity?

“Teens always do crazy stuff, but it’s just that much more intense and fun when you can post it,” said Nathaniel Visneaskous, 18, of Deer Park. “When you live in a boring town, what else is there to do?”

This is when the argument in my head went viral. When students are making statements like this, the role of the educational community becomes apparent. We need to teach them that their story on the web is one that they create. These videos, their MySpace pages, whatever they connect themselves to is the story they are writing. As quickly as we make judgments regarding the information we deem as worthy of our attention, we can do the same to individuals in that sphere. We are clickable now, and our reputation will be directly linked to what is available about us on the web.

The fence-plowing pioneer in the article, Adam Schleichkorn, in a classic bit of hucksterism, used his unexpected notoriety to bolster his commercial interests. If this is true that the video was not a staged event, but rather a serendipitous one, then we can applaud Schleichkorn for his savvy. We can teach this type of literacy.

This area of heated confrontation between students, school administrations, town officials, and inevitably police, is full of teachable moments. Finding the time to have the conversations with the students regarding their content needs to be a priority, or articles like this one will only continue to populate the front pages of newspapers, and the grocery aisles of towns across the country.

Regarding the argument I staged in my mind regarding this, I found a quote from James Montier in a recent Fast Company article (Prophet Among Pinstripes)
You should look for all the evidence that goes against your view...Most people are not inclined to sit down with people who disagree with them.
Sound advice.


Patrick said...

Check out Chris's post about the same article at: http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity

Adam Schleichkorn said...

You are the first one to understand and acknowledge the bigger picture, and I must thank you for that. This clip was not planned by any means, but you better believe that the viral marketing to follow was 100% planned. The whole idea was to promote my record label on youtube, by appealing to as many people as possible. This video was for the Jackass crowd, and now it is the catalyst for more traffic than we've ever received. I never even planned for anywhere near that amount of attention, it was just one of many videos up there. People keep coming at me like I'm a loser 25 year old making stupid videos. In actuality though, I'm a loser 25 year old, who just capitalized off one of the largest marketing schemes ever for free. This video was up there for my friends' enjoyment, and in the hopes to bring an extra couple of hundred people to our pages, not a hundred thousand!

K Christopherson said...

I agree that we need to take the time to discuss such examples with students today. The incident has allowed adam to gain his 15 minutes of fame from something very unimportant. However, it is the others who are now following that need to see the implications of their actions. We are entering a new era wher privacy and public are no longer clearly defined and it will take us time to distinguish where the lines are to be drawn. In the mean time, we need to educate students that just because you can doesn't mean you should. We have the technology but we haven't figured out how it fits into our system of rules and it will take time for such things to happen. In the mean time, educators can be proactive in using tools to create positive and productive creations as a response to the other things that are going on.

Patrick Higgins said...

There was a lot of buzz generated on this story, and I wanted to say thanks to both of you for responding to my post. The key word here is "proactive." As teachers face a continually changing landscape in terms of technology and its uses, ethics, and problems, the need for them to be pillars of the responsible content creation is glaring.

With all of the tools available to us now and the ability to create networks and access people like never before, we can and should take that role in society. Create, distribute, and network, but also educate, share, and guide.