block 2: virtual communities

We approach the theme of virtual community in tandem with that of virtual ethnography. The idea over this three week block, is that you will identify a ‘community’ (again, this is a problematic term which we can spend some time discussing) and do a piece of micro-research on it, drawing on the principles of virtual ethnography. We will have group discussions around this, but in conducting your micro-ethnography you will be working alone. By the end of the block (week 7: 8th November) you will have ‘published’ the findings from your piece of work using an online application of your choice, and feeding it into your lifestream.

The core readings for this block aim to introduce you to the notion both of ‘virtual community’ and ‘virtual ethnography’. You will also find in the readings section links to some examples of research which take a (very broadly) ‘virtual ethnographic’ approach. Clearly, you are not going to be able to achieve anything like this depth and level of analysis in a short and exploratory piece of work for this course, but the examples will hopefully spark some ideas and give a sense of what might be done.

The general plan of work for the coming three weeks is as follows:

week 5 (19-25 October)
Spend time in the discussion board brainstorming ideas for ‘communities’ to be looked at, and ways of presenting ethnographic findings.

weeks 6 and 7 (26 October – 8 November)
Conduct your micro-ethnography and report on it using an online medium of your choice.

ideas for building your ethnographic ‘artefact’

Bear in mind that you are going to have to be quite modest in what you try to achieve over these three weeks – we will discuss ideas for communities you might engage with in the discussion board, but please bear in mind that whatever you choose will need to be ‘micro’ indeed and of manageable scope for a 2/3 week foray.

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