My digital ethnography – #mscdystopia on Tweeter

This is my very first attempt of “ethnographing”. After some thoughts and bouncing of ideas, I have chosen to do our (EDEDC) Tweeter tutorial #mscdystopia.


Before participating on the online community which is Tweeter #mscdystopia, we are required to watch four films under the theme – “dystopia” which were selected by our tutors.  We were required to comment, give our opinion/views and also suggest a film which falls under the theme.  We also need to set-up an account with Tweeter and pick a name for our online identity on Tweeter and mine is m45n1 just because someone already used “mas”!

There are all together 199 entries for #mscdystopia and it starts on the 21 September 2009 and ends on the 30th October 2009 (but this was me asking for help searching/retrieving the #mscdystopia for my study).  Really it ends on the 6th October 2009 with an entry from lesley1004 “wud you feel any emotion if videos had no accompanying music …next step , watch the eyes”


This is how it begins on Tweeter:

This is how it all begins

This is how it all begins

The first tweet post was from “hyperscoped” giving his views on what is dystopia.  There are various threads available on this:

  1. Opinions/views on the four suggested films: mscdystopia4
  2. The use of the social websites for example: Tweeter, Facebook, etc and how they influence our life
  3. Individuals response to other individuals
  4. Suggested clips related to the theme
  5. Comment on the readings and its relation to the theme and suggested films – mscdystopia2
  6. Real life example – government – mscdystopia3

And this is how it ends…



Not everyone involves in the community is  an “active contributor” me included.  Individual bounce ideas about their thoughts on the theme.  There are also some comments on the key reading for the theme.  Answering questions with questions to provoke thinking and some share the same ideas/views.

I hope this inform my readers about the ethnography of Tweeter #mscdystopia for MSc E-learning – E-learning and Digital Culture.

I am open to any suggestions on how to improve my “story telling”.  Sorry that it is not presented in a sophisticated online way.

10 comments to My digital ethnography – #mscdystopia on Tweeter

  • Sarah Payne

    An interesting view of us as a group! Good work.
    I was not sure whether I thought of us as a community at the time we were engaged in this, beyond the fact that we are all studying together. I actually found the early Twittering to be quite dificult in the sense that any extended conversation seemed impossible. At the time I would have been quite happy not to Tweet at all if it wasn’t an important element of my lifestream (though I am enjoying it now!). Perhaps that makes me an ‘unwilling’ community member!

  • Mas

    Thanks Sarah for your comment. Yes, I’m not quite sure about the community thingy – sharing the same interest, as we all need to use Twitter to share our views. Its kinda requirement for the lifestream and assessment for the course! As you said, Twitter was a new environment for me and found it difficult to engage in communication with the participants and in my view you need to go on it all the time to keep up with the conversation else you will be lost (in translation?). At first I didn’t even know that you can reply to an individual’s twitter!

  • Sarah Payne

    “At first I didn’t even know that you can reply to an individual’s twitter!” – sometimes communities seem to have a netiquette that excludes new members and make the existing members feel more (powerful?) engaged.

  • Thanks Mas,
    This project of yours more than ever makes me want to set about defining ‘community’ in many different ways. Early on it reminds me a little of Susan Isaac’s definition of children’s play at a certain age (which I now forget) – she called it “temporary alliances for the purposes of individual play”. Looked at in the cold light of day I feel that was what our community may have been; at least at first.

  • billb

    Mas, I think you raise quite a few interesting questions here: for instance, what makes a community? Rheingold states that communities condense out of the common interests of their members. Does this mean that an exchange of tweets with a common hashtag is enough raw material for a virtual community to form? If so, would an ongoing Google Wave between 3-4 persons be enough for a community as well? Or a collaborative piece of work on a wiki? And what about the number of members? Is there a minimum number of members, below which one cannot speak of a community?

  • John

    I enjoyed this too Mas- it’s interesting to look at this twitter tag as a community. I’m getting used to Twitter a bit more now too- at the start I would go back to where I had previously read a conversation and continue from there- now I just dip in and see what’s current.

  • jen

    hi Mas, your description of the twitter tutorial catches the basics of what happened, and sets the stage for some analysis of the nature of our course community (as displayed in this particular way).

    I can see in the comments above that it’s raising questions about what community might mean in this context – the fact that it was a compulsory activity, for example, and that the technology was a barrier for some.

    I also wonder, do you think that your presence as an ‘insider’ or course participant gives you insight into the community dynamics that you wouldn’t have had as an observer? If so, what does that suggest about the nature of virtual ethnography?

  • Mas, I thought it was really cool to look back at a community we are all (albeit compulsorily!) members of.

    I thought it would be interesting to get more of your sense of your arrival and – as both Sarah and Jen suggest – that sense of being an outsider and of becoming an insider perhaps or of the dynamics and consequences of any divisions in the sense of inclusion/exclusion.

    I thought it was very interesting that you identified the usefulness, to conversation, of answering questions with questions – do you think that is a function of the (140 character format) or if this is an effective form of discourse in any group space.

    I was wondering also if the fact that this discussion was taken place between people mostly just getting to know each other (or at least each others’ twitter styles – rather than later in the course) might have made any difference?

  • sian

    The questions posed here offer some really nice ways forward Mas, should you want to continue this work in any form. I wonder if the Twitter exchanges – which took place right at the beginning of the course when the group was still very much forming – worked well as a kind of ‘portal’ to a sense of community? It would be interesting to extend the analysis to later interactions – on Twitter or elsewhere – to see how they compare. For me, the sense of this group as a community didn’t really start being felt until the submission and commentary on the visual artefacts.

  • Mas

    Sian and all, many thanks for all your comments and questions raised are very relevant/valid. It made me think further about my ethnography (just that I haven’t got much time to be online and answering them) and Sian, if you are suggesting about continue this as part of my final assessment – the answer is maybe as I did think about it today.

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