all the ethnographies

November 5th, 2009 by sian

Thanks Sibylle and Silvana for getting things rolling! We’ve made a page for the collected ethnographies.

You can also link to this from the right hand menu now.

Looking forward to more links and comments!

(week) 7 is a lucky number!

November 2nd, 2009 by sian

Time passes by and we’re now in the final week of block 2. I get the sense from the discussion board and the blogs that everyone’s working hard at the ethnography – none are actually up yet but I think they are very much on the way. When yours is ready, just post a comment to the ‘building your ethnography’ page to say where it is, and tweet to #ededc too. We’ll collate links together in a single page to make things easier. The earlier in the week you get yours up, the more time there is for comments from the team!

Finally, there seems to be good support for the idea that in weeks 8 and 9 we stick with the blogs and peer commentary rather than take discussion into the discussion board, so let’s do that. We’ll also have ‘bring a friend to class’ over that period, so let us know if you’re introducing someone. If the friends are willing, we can also post up their names and a bit about them in a new page in the course site – so do give us that information if you can.

Best of luck with the ethnographising – as always, shout if you need help of any kind from the group, or from your tutors.

Two ideas for weeks 8 & 9

October 29th, 2009 by jen

We have two possibly wild ideas for weeks 8 & 9 to run past you for your views.

1. What about using our blogs rather than the discussion board during these weeks? The blogs have worked so well through the semester, and our culture of commenting is so vibrant, that we wondered if it would be possible to use the blogs as a way of reflecting on and discussing the readings together. We could all use Twitter to post up links to entries we’d like to share with each other, and Sian and I could post a ‘blog highlights’ post every few days through the fortnight to help draw things together.

2. Bring a friend/colleague to class? If you know someone who would find the topics for weeks 8 & 9 relevant or intriguing, would it be interesting to invite them to do the readings, participate in the wallwisher posthuman task, and comment on the blogs and in Twitter with us? I don’t think we would want to create new blogs for them on the EDC site, but they could blog in their own blog spaces and tweet the links for us, or they could send you their thoughts and you could blog on their behalf!

Could you comment below (or email us directly) with your thoughts about these ideas?

Welcome to week 6 (still Block 2)

October 26th, 2009 by jen

Hi everyone – welcome to week six. For the next two weeks you should be conducting your micro-ethnography and reporting on it using an online medium of your choice. As with the visual artefacts in block 1, try to leave enough time next week to engage in discussion about your own and others’ work. Please post a comment on the “building your ethnography” page to let us know where to find your work.

There have been lots of good ideas flying around the discussion board. Online communities identified so far include: Meme meisters, Education Ning community, ‘Is Elvis still alive?’, Sage Methodspace, ELGG board, scotedutweets twibe, Steelmen online, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, Body Adornment Community, LGBT Community, Torchwood Twitter Community, 2009 Undergraduates online, Influential Tweeters, Re-dubbings of Downfall, The Death of Irony, Star Trek fan site, Second Life, E-learning and digital cultures community, Sleeping Cats on Flickr, Greek interpreters, Irish musicians online, and quilting community online.

A number of course participants have suggested that they would be willing for someone (or more than one person) from the course to use our EDC community as their ethnographic site. If this is problematic for anyone, please email me or Sian directly, or post something in the discussion board in the next day or two to let us know. Otherwise, if you’re still looking for a community, you might consider looking at our course.

In addition to the suggestions in the course handbook and here, if you have good ideas for presenting the ethnography that you’re willing to pass on, please add them to the discussion board thread that Sibylle started yesterday.

Have a great week!

YouTube Preview Image

(building stonehenge is nothing… try building a virtual ethnography!)

Guidelines for choosing a community to study

October 23rd, 2009 by jen

There’s been quite a lot of discussion on the discussion board about what type of community or field site it is appropriate or feasible to look at in the amount of time we have. Sian has made a posting about ethics which is reproduced in the post below. In addition to considering this, we would like you to follow these guidelines for choosing your community:

1. If you are part of a community that you really want to study and you feel that you can ask for and receive permission in a timely manner, then you can go ahead and seek this. In this case we recommend that you seek permission to look at archived (not ongoing) discussion/communication.

2. Otherwise we want you to choose a community which:
- is public and open to the whole internet (not password protected or members only) – ie: Flickr, Youtube or similar
- has a culture of using usernames/handles/pseudonyms rather than real names

This ensures that there is a low expectation of privacy and a low level of concern about anonymity which you need to contend with.

3. If you are still concerned about the material you are working with or creating, you can choose to post your snapshot up privately for just the course participants to see and comment on. If you don’t have somewhere private yourself to put things, you could email us your files and we could put them up in an EASE protected space.

ethical issues

October 23rd, 2009 by sian

As Tony mentioned in discussion, the Association of Internet Researchers guidelines are still a good starting point on thinking through ethical issues, though they are getting old now. The questions they raise do help in terms of establishing whether there are ethical issues that have serious implications for your own micro-studies though.

1) What ethical expectations are established by the venue?
the greater the acknowledged publicity of the venue, the less obligation there may be to protect individual privacy, confidentiality, right to informed consent, etc.

2) Who are the subjects posters / authors / creators of the material and/or inter/actions under study?
the greater the vulnerability of the author/subject – the greater the obligation of the researcher to protect the author/subject.

3) What are the initial ethical expectations/assumptions of the authors/subjects being studied ?
do participants in this environment assume/believe that their communication is private?

4) What ethically significant risks does the research entail for the subject(s)?
if the content of a subject’s communication were to become known beyond the confines of the venue being studied – would harm likely result?

Perhaps the best way forward would be to ask these questions of your own proposed domain of study, and if you have serious doubts on any of these points just choose something else. This is a small-scale, essentially 2-week activity, in which only something very contained can be achieved. So in addressing the questions above, I suggest you would likely want to go for a community (or field) which is:

1) as public domain as possible
2) definitely not involving the vulnerable, as far as can be established (ie no children, those explicitly with mental health issues, etc)
3) try to stick to communities where there is no reasonable expectation that the communication taking place is private (ie YouTube is probably OK, much of Facebook probably isn’t: see Michela Clari’s paper in the secondary readings for an example of work around a Flickr ‘community’)
4) if there’s even a suspicion of possible risk to participants in your research or publication of the analysis, avoid the field

I think you would want to avoid the need to gain consent in such a small-scale piece of work, though there may be instances where it feels OK just to post a message letting people know you’re doing the research and to let you know if they don’t want you to cite them, particularly if you are researching a community of which you are a part.

One final point – if you have doubts about ethical implications for your own study, please talk to your tutor about them. Not that our judgement is going to particularly be more apt than yours, but just that convention in the School of Education is that at Masters level ethical issues are cleared at the level of the supervisor/tutor rather than by our ethics committee. That just means that Jen and I carry ultimate responsibility as far as the School is concerned, if anything goes wrong!

I hope all this doesn’t seem too constraining. It’s always going to be an option to come back to an activity like this for a more sustained piece of research for the dissertation.

Finally, please share your links on ethical issues in internet research by using the delicious tag edcethics.

Skype tutorial times for week 10

October 22nd, 2009 by jen

This is just to draw your attention to the Skype tutorial times for week 10 -  at

As per last time, could you let us know in the comments on that page if you’re able to join in, and if so, for which session?


Onward to block 2

October 19th, 2009 by sian

The visual artefacts have been fantastic – I had real trouble tearing myself away from them this weekend, there’s so much to say about each one. It makes no sense to try to summarise such rich diversity of  thinking and expression. However it does seem to me that a few themes have tended to dominate: the utopia/dystopia opposition; the question of text/image and the ways in which meaning emerges differently across different media; the nature of identity and the way we manage our digital existences across multiple nodes of the network; and – perhaps more subtly – the implications of all this for the digital ‘classroom’.

I think we should extend the commenting period for a few days, while also turning attention to the next block of study – it’s going to be interesting to see how these themes extend into the next few weeks. This is where you conduct a piece of ethnographic micro-research in an attempt to think through the notion of online ‘community’. The plan is that this week we will discuss ideas for communities that you’d like to look at, and share thoughts on media you might use for presenting your ethnography, while also doing the readings. We’ll kick off discussion in the – until now barely used! – discussion board and see how it goes. I imagine ideas will migrate from there to blogs and to Twitter.

After this week, you’ll be working largely alone in conducting and presenting your ethnography, though in week 7 we should have some good exchanges going on around the ethnographic representations as they start appearing. This seemed to work really well for the visual artefacts.

Thanks everyone for the work you’ve put in over the last few weeks – it’s been really terrific.

Lifestream feedback coming by email this week

October 19th, 2009 by jen

Hi everyone! We’re now about halfway through the semester, and the lifestream creation which will account for half of your final mark for the course. So, your tutor will email each of you individually this week to give you some formative feedback on your lifestream. We know that many of you have not yet ‘filtered’ your lifestream, and that is fine – this is just meant as a general indication of how your lifestream is looking in relation to the assessment criteria (which you can find in the course handbook). It is also an opportunity for you to let us know of any issues, ideas or questions you have about the course in general and the assessment in particular.

I think we have everyone’s up-to-date email address, but if you haven’t heard from your tutor by Friday, let us know.

all the visual artefacts in one place

October 13th, 2009 by sian

I thought it’d be helpful to collate them all together on one page – so here they are, so far:

I’ve added a link from the right hand menu too.