Articles
Meet Michael Wesch

Michael Wesch says that the power of today's technology to change our relationships and culture is unprecedented. Wesch and his students examine social networking and other interactive Internet tools. He also believes a culture transformed by digital media may require fundamental revisions in education. 

 

WHAT HE DOES

Cultural anthropologist and media ecologist

 

WHAT HE WAS LIKE AS A KID

I always liked everybody, so when some kids were picked on or left out I always became their friend. I’d usually discover that they were really interesting and had all sorts of fantastic ideas.


HEROES

My parents are my heroes. They seem to have boundless love not only for me but for everybody they meet. They raised me in a small Nebraska town where simple trips to the grocery store were major social events. They would stop, talk, and more than anything listen to just about everybody they saw. Such examples have greatly shaped my desire to reach out and connect with people very different from me.

WHAT HE LIKES TO DAYDREAM ABOUT

Zipping down mountains on bikes, skateboards, and tricycles

HOW HE GOT INTO HIS FIELD

In college I had a wonderful teacher, Dr. Martin Ottenheimer. He seemed to be delivering nothing more than a series of simple facts to be memorized for an exam, but there was a deeper pattern that connected them, ultimately crafting a profound message­ that the world is not as it seems and that even our most basic taken-for-granted assumptions cannot be taken for granted. Dr. Ottenheimer did not help me discover any answers. He helped me find questions I had never asked before. I knew that finding the answers would not be so simple as going to the library. I needed to explore the world and live with people radically different from me.

TYPICAL DAY

Mostly I play all day. First I play with my kids. Then I drop them off at school and I go play with ideas all day. Then I pick up the kids and play with them again.

WHAT HE DOES FOR FUN

I ride a cargo bike everywhere I go, which is usually loaded with my kids, so fun is built right into every little trip I make.

FAVORITE PLACE HE HAS TRAVELED

Central New Guinea. There’s no electricity, no running water, and no cash economy­—just the joys of being together with people, gardening, hunting, talking, and playing.

BEST ADVICE

Love them and they will love you back.

WHAT HE CAN'T TRAVEL WITHOUT

When I travel I like to let everything go. Whatever might be something I can't do without is probably something I'm better off forgetting.


 MOST HEART-POUNDING EXPERIENCE

Wrestling with snakes in New Guinea. You can usually catch a snake right after it's had a big meal, so you not only get to eat the snake, you also get whatever it just ate as an appetizer. The first time I tried this, the snake had just eaten a large rat. I passed on eating the rat, though I was tempted after a week of nothing but sweet potatoes and taro. Perhaps that’s why the snake tasted like an exquisitely buttered lobster in a five-star restaurant. As I ate I couldn't help but notice that a snake like this could probably crawl through any one of several holes in the hut. I made a note to seal myself in especially tight that night.


No use. I woke up in the middle of the night to find my worst nightmare. I could feel it, as thick as the one I had just eaten, laying across my chest. It felt heavy, about four inches thick. I couldn't see anything, but I managed to grab it with my left hand. I tried to throw it off of me, but as I threw it, I went with it. I was wrapped up with this thing somehow. I eventually managed to wrestle it to the ground and pin it down with my left hand. I tried to pin it with my right hand but I couldn't free my right arm. It was about this time that I realized that I had actually just pinned down my own right arm. My arm had fallen asleep and had been resting across my chest. There was no snake.