Time’s Googling for Your Grade


A la Dan Pink and his focus on design, Time magazine recently posted an article about students using design to become famous in the Google world we live in. Jamie Wilkinson, educator at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, had an idea. He would teach students how to become famous (or at least their sites) on the Internet. What is the point? Why would these kids care?

As Wilkinson sees it, this is the world in which his students will be competing — a world wide web where almost everyone is “trying to become viral, and constantly confronting savvy online audiences that have razor-sharp b___s___ detectors.”

Software is being used to track the popularity of the student sites. They can even check in on the class blog (Warning: mature language possible) for updates. Wilkinson’s curriculum is designed to give students direction on making their blogs famous and staying on top. But is that enough for the students who are graded basically on how software perceives their popularity? Would they turn that knowledge into a unique design to capture the attention of web users everywhere? When the heat is on and the semester winds down, how much of this new content would come in handy? Or would they just embed a sleazy YouTube video to generate traffic from the work of others?

As Wilkinson goes around the class, asking people to show what digital art they’ve made over the last week, it’s clear these tawdry music videos are the hit of the day. One student reveals that his short video has generated 13,000 views in only a few days. “Wow, talk about selling out,” Wilkinson marvels. “I thought you weren’t going to stoop that low…but you can’t deny the numbers. Look at those page views; that’s amazing!”

Hmmmm. Design? I guess some things never change.  How would the results of this class’s choices change the curriculum next year? Seems like it is an interesting social experiment in itself.  I am thinking some deeper ethics guidelines or morality conversations just might be in order for version 2.  But that’s just me I suppose.

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