Archive for the ‘Ethnography project’ Category

Evaluation of Ethnography

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Looking back at this mini ethnography and Bankeyfields in general I had one aim in mind, to find evidence that this virtual comminity actually acted together as a community. I was slightly biased as this is a physical community I already knew so I was aware of the prominent physical community already in place. Looking at the email I received from the administrator of Bankeyfields, and a resident of the community, he points out that this virtual community has strengthened the physical one even further,

“Where I knew just my neighbours before, I now know and chat to most most people in my street and streets away. I wouldnt say its the heart of our community, thats the people, but it has done a fantastic job in bringing us together”.

I think this says a great deal about how virtual communities can be used for the good. This is a very positive example of how cyberculture has bridged the divide between physical and virtual.

References.

Bell, D (2001) Community and Cyberculture, chapters of An Introduction to Cyberculture. Abingdon: Roultedge. pp92-112

Clari, M, A Flickr Ethnography, Unpublished.

Hine, C (2000) The Virtual Objects of Ethnography. From Hine, C. Virtual Ethnography. pp41-66, London: Sage

Rheingold, H (1993) Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, Reading MA: Addison Wesley

 

Email from Bankeyfields administrator

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Hi Carrie

Sorry about the delay, it’s been a work week from hell. Any way, the easy things first. Signed up users: 195 Unique users a day on average:

 Day, Date, Page Loads, Unique Visitors, First Time Visitors, Returning Visitors

Wednesday, 4th November 2009, 342, 203, 148, 55

Tuesday, 3rd November 2009, 299, 152, 106, 46

Monday, 2nd November 2009, 300, 172, 126, 46

Sunday, 1st November 2009, 306, 133, 99, 34

Saturday, 31st October 2009, 345, 153, 114, 39

Friday, 30th October 2009, 232, 144, 115, 29

Thursday, 29th October 2009, 273, 127, 87, 40

Why the site was formed-  Originally the was formed primarily as a tool for a previous Neighbourhood Watch Tool who had the foresight to start a very basic static html website, which they posted there nesltters as pdfs. They then added a free hosted forum. As I have a web design/developer background it was a perfect opportunity for me to build something new and fresh, that would bring together the elements of a Neighbourhood Watch group, such as easily posting updates and news letters, and merged it into the fledgling community that had started to grow on the old forum (It had a bout 10 users). From the off set I wanted a site that had everything we’d need in one place, without having to have one website for forums, one for documents. I also thought it was important that users should have just one user name and password. I also wanted to make it easy for the NHW members to easily be able to post their newsletters to the site, and post updates when every they happened rather than at quarterly intervals (kind of misses the point if break ins are happening) So, using a open source content management software called drupal I set about building a system with these aims in mind. 1. Unified account system (one username/password) 2. Users can post blogs 3. Users can chat on a forum, which will be divided into areas based on activities and regions 4. Users can upload images to the gallery 5. Users can communicate with each other behind the scenes using the private messages 6. Users can post local events onto the site 7. Users can promote local businesses The whole thing took about 1 month to build, and as it happened the NHW group disbanded the week it was launched. At the time this was a major set back because I was pinning all of my hopes with populating the site, and keeping it up to date with NHW news. I’m a developer, and not much of a writer so I had my work cut out for me. Luckily I had Mark on board, the chap who built the first basic site, and some of the 10 members of the old fourm on board, and we started to slowly to build up content. Chat about local things, post stories about our hobbies, local events, national events. Because our estates are fairly new, roundabout 7 years old, and we don’t have a local community point such as a pub, this site has helped this community to join it’s self together. Where I knew just my neighbours before, I now know and chat to most people in my street, and streets away. I wouldn’t say it’s the heart of our community, that’s the people, but it has done a fantastic job in bringing us together. Over the one and a half years the site has been running it’s stand out moments have been. Reformed a Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) group, and made the website the core of the group, organising, placing alerts, involving everyone basically (which was my aim for the site from the outset). Fought crime, by communicating and letting people be on guard when needed. Heavily using the site we’ve fought and won a battle with the council over a dangerous roundabout, which they refused to do anything about. (Having once worked at the Sentinel helped to by getting my mugshot in the paper every couple of months promoting our campaign). With the help of Tunstall police too, we’ve finally had something done about it. What normally takes people years to achieve, has taken us 10 months, which I’m very proud of . A community has united to take something on, and we did it, mostly using the web. OK, enough rambling, I hope it’s a starting point for your project, you’ll have to excuse my grammar and spelling though. Is this the sort of thing you were after? Matt

Are the users supportive of one another?

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Bankeyfields users are very much a supportive group. Support for one another is essentail as it builds upon the feeling of belonging to a community. The users support for one another is apparent in the way that there is a shared concern for each other and the communities well being. Not only does Bankeyfields raise issues of concern but people are also invited to social events and to share in social conversation with one another. This could be seen as what Bell (2001) refers to as “social cement”. Without the presence of both social interaction and support for one another I do not believe they would be as successful as an online and physical community.

How do the participants construct a sense of community?

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Participants in this particular forum have constructed a sense of community in their online environmnet. It may be said that this was in fact inevitable as they are already an established community. BUT, the postings to this forum simply strengthen their sense of community, physical and virtual.

Bell (2001) talks about the emergance of social codes as a means of constructing a sense of community. Users of Bankeyfields are asked to regularly contribute to forums and blogs, it is almost like an unwritten rule of the site. The moderator seems to regulalry prompt people to give feedback on issues discussed. This will be a method of allowing the communication to flow and to keep the community online intact.

The users construct a sense of community by having a shared interest in protecting their own physical space and that of the others around them. As one of the posts to the forum says,

“Thanks for the info, do we need to inform the police about this as they have a zero tolerance on teenagers with regard to this sort of thing” (Bankeyfields, 2009)

It can be said that users constructed a sense of community from the off set by establishing this website, the community was already in place.

Does the Bankeyfields forum show evidence of there being a virtual community?

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

“When people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling to form webs of personal feeling” (Rheingold, 1993)

First of all, looking at the Bankeyfields site overall it markets itself as “Tunstalls community website”. It has the aim of inviting local people to discuss neighbourhood issues, blog, post or read crime alerts and contribute to a local directory. It also informs residents of neighbourhood watch meetings. You get a sense of community spirit from the users of this site as they share what Bell (2001) refers to as a “shared interest”. Each of these people have set up accounts on the Bankeyfields site as they feel it will allow them to contribute to local cohesion and will bring them together with like minded people. Bankeyfields has been set up as a means of supporting the sense of physical community already in place. Many have argued the value of virtual spaces as a means of developing online communities. Many support online communities as a way of creating a true sense of community. For example Kollock $ Smith (1999) believe,

“Not only are online communities real, but also that they have the potential to support face to face communication and helphold local communities together”

This is very much the case with Bankeyfields. The online users are there to support the physical community.

Looking at the particular forum thread I have decided to focus upon (http://www.bankeyfields.co.uk/forum/beware-trick-or-treat-threat-bankeyfields-neighbourhood-watch) it is apparent that the users share an online community spirit or a shared interest as discussed earlier. The Timeline, located here http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/27969 gives an indication of the frequency of the postings. Many of the forums and blogs on this site have a similar amount of actual written responces although they have a significantly larger amount of people who viewed the thread or posting. The forum tile I am focusing upon is “Beware- Trick or Treat threat” so far there have been six postings and I am expecting (hoping) there may be additional posts to come. Reverting back to the research question fo this section “Does this forum show evidence of there being a virtual community”? I would have to answer that with a resounding yes. Whay have I reached this conclusion? Well, it is apparent from the first blog posting that the users support one another. The first post has been written to advise and warn fellow users and those who share the same physical community about a bunch of rogue trick or treaters acting in the area. This shows a shared interest in keeping the area safe. The threads then go on to share similar expreiences of this incident, reinforcing a shared experience. There fore it is evident that the users of Bankeyfields act as a community on as well as offline.

What is a Virtual Community?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

“Words on a screen are quite capable of…creating a community from a collection of strangers”
(Rheingold, 1993)

Millions of people now engage in the computer medited social groups know as virtual communities. Many of these virtual groups give constant snap shots of peoples everyday lives in the form of things like tweets, status updates on facebook or myspace or blogs. Alongside belonging to a physical community people increasingly belong to a growing number of virtual communities, whether this be for social or personal purposes.  Wellman and Gulia (1999) put across the argument that online communities are damaging real life communities by encouraging a withdrawal from “real life”. On the other hand it is also believed that cyberspace re-enchants community. There are virtual communities that can be used to support either of these arguments. For example second life may appear to be a medium for people to escape their real lives and become another person who they are perhaps unable to portray in their own lives. To support the other side of the argument, the social community “Bankeyfields” I am looking at has been set up to support the local community and as a means of bringing the community further together.

Ethnography project- Arrival Story.

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

How did I get here?

What online community did I choose and why.

What di I intend to find out?

What questions am I going to ask?

A Ethnographic approach involves providing a description (a beginning), an analysis (a middle) and an interpretation of the culture sharing group (an end). Esentially the ethnographer is required to take on the role of a story teller. (Cresswell 2007, p162). So first of all to the beginning, or as I will call it, the “arrival Story”

What is meant by an arrival story?

“What developed in classic ethnographic text was the inclusion of some sort of arrival story to give authenticity to the findings”. (Geertz 1988, Pratt 1986)

“The arrival story provides a metaphor for the people and society being studied, suggesting to the reader how the susequent analysis is to be framed”. (Davies 1999)

YouTube Preview Image

Given the limited amount of time allocated to this task (to produce a mini ethnography project, based on a virtual community) the study will be an investigative one and will take a qualititive approach to research.

How did I get here?

Obviously the primary motivation to do this task is that it is a course requirement. So my arrival here was mainly due to a desire to do well on this module. Now I am here I inted to observe the interactions of the online community and try, if it is appropriate and I receive permission to participate in some of their debates.

What online community did I choose and why?

After a number of days spent trawling through the internet for inspiration I came across Banketfields: Tunstalls Community website. This site markets its self as an area where participants can discuss local issues, blog, post and read crime reports, display images and photos and contribute to a local directory. It is a fairly well estabished site and has been running for ten years. It has around thirty users who contribute on a regular basis to the numerous blogs and forums.

I decided to choose this online community as primarily it is a community who has a similar interest to me, they care about the well being of our local area. (I omitted to mention that Tunstall, the sites focus area, is the community in which I grew up). I also felt that with the volume of interaction going on in the blogs and forums it would reveal some interesting results about the users sense of online community as well as highlighting their physical sense of community. Does the sense of physical community I know only to well about from growing up there translate to their online community?

What do I intent to find out?  

I am going to focus my attention on one thread on the forum, entitled “Beware- Trick or Treat threat” I felt that it is easily managable in the time frame allocatedto the task and that it gives a sense of their community online. The thread was started on the 18/10/2009 and is ongoing. So far there have been six postsand I expect more with this particular topic and bearing in mind the time of year! I intend to document the postings using a timeline in timetoast. The link I will post up at a later date.

What questions am I going to ask?

The questions I ma going to ask include,

What is a virtual community?

Does this forum show evidence of there being a virtual community?

How do participants construct a sense of community?

Are the users supportive of one another?

Is this a good place to study given the overall cultural themes we are tackling?  (M.Clari)

Once I have answered these questions and any others I think appropriate as I go along will be presented in a series of blog postings. In my blog postings relating to this mini project I will tag with Ethnography mini project.