OLA SuperConference


For various uninteresting reasons, this post has been delayed far longer than I intended. However, I hope that you will still find value in my recollections of what I brought away from the conference, even two weeks later.

For the second time, I packed my bags and headed off to the Ontario Library Association  SuperConference. I had enjoyed my Friday at last year’s conference so much, I was really looking forward to two days this year. No longer a newbie, I knew where to eat to avoid huge line-ups (in the CBC building or an underground food court across the street).  I brought a lunch Friday so I wouldn’t miss the CANSCAIP Mass Book Launch. I learned more: don’t miss the reception at Jack Astor’s (I won’t next year); there’s never enough time to see everything at Super Expo; speed dating with crime writers is not to be missed; and consider staying Saturday next year; there were some great speakers and a lot of fun on that last day.

Michael Wesch

Of course, a conference is primarily about speakers and workshops. Thursday’s full session speaker, Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist who studied the cultural implications of the introduction of writing on a Papua New Guinea tribe, currently examines the effects of social media and digital technology on society.

Building on the work of Marshall McCluhan and Neil Postman, Wesch stated that as the media changes, relationships change. It is not simply a tool, media mediates relationships, what can be said, who can say it and how information is stored.  Television changed relationships. Home furniture was rearranged to face the TV, in contrast to the more conversational fireplace arrangement. This slideshow provides an excellent representation of Wesch’s observations.

In education, the arrangement of the traditional classroom says: information is scarce, trust authority for good information; authorized information is beyond discussion, obey the authority and follow along. To encourage digital citizenship, tap into students’ passions in order to motivate them to learn digital media rather than assign them a task using digital media. Let them follow their passions.

He stated that critical thinking is not enough. Media literacy is also needed, but it is also not enough; we need to move into digital citizenship. Digital citizenship results in new forms of freedom but it is also a path to new forms of control, as in the recent uprisings in the Middle East. It can lead to greater openness, but can also provide more opportunities for surveillance; a larger community or isolation; new ways of participation or a distraction. It is a tool; it is what we make of it.

In his final observations, Michael Wesch indicated that you must harness social media so it doesn’t harness you. Be aware of social media. Set up your PLN (Personal Learning Network)  and become so good at finding information that information finds you.

For further information visit Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University.


2 comments on “OLA SuperConference

  1. Thank you so much for describing the plenary. To my deep dissatisfaction, I had to leave the talk only 1/3 of the way in (for good reasons, but still…) – your links will help me recapture some of what I missed.

    • Delighted it’s helpful. I appreciated your 3 point summaries of the sessions you attended. Too bad these sessions aren’t available online. So much good information to be shared.

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