Watching Michael Wesch‘s lecture “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able” (part 1 and part 2) was a great return to some thought provoking material for me. I had the fortune of meeting Wesch briefly and seeing an earlier version of this lecture a couple of years a go at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston.
It was the first time I got to go to the conference and Wesch was the whole reason that I fought for my district to send me. I had seen all his videos, read a lot of his work on his blog, and couldn’t wait to see what he would present. He presented what must have been an early version of this talk.
There is something heartrendingly beautiful about his story of spending time in Papua New Guinea and it being the harbinger of everything he knows about the Internet. In watching the video, the irony of his experience is what I continue to find so amazing. I sometimes believe that we live in a time of enormous paradoxes. AT&T used to have an ad campaign with the catchphrase, “In a world full of technology, people make the difference.” And they do. Wesch poignantly highlights this, as he explains how he was curled up on the floor of a remote hut coming to grips with his own identity crisis.
Yet, in true classical story form, it was only in a completely distant, foreign context that he could make the necessary discoveries to return with insight. Much that is old is indeed new again, or perhaps, paradoxically continues to remain new.
Our mediated existences help form and refine our identities. For many of us, the medias we choose to engage are the contexts in which we find ourselves always, perpetually emerging. We can take up the challenge of reading and writing our world into existence, in true Harold fashion with crayon in hand, or we can allow our choices to be dictated to us without even knowing, like the fish who is unaware he lives in water.
To me these are some of the themes at the core of what Wesch describes in the pursuit of Knowledge-ability. The most heartbreaking aspect is that without mindful awareness of our choices and reconciliation of their impact on our identity, we all run the risk of looking back on what we have wrought and hating it, much like some of those individual that “reformed” that small village in Papua New Guinea that Wesch observed.