Right, here goes: I went for the Sleeping Cats at FlickR.

Again, the quality isn’t great, as I had to compress the video.

YouTube Preview Image

Looking forward to your comments.


  1. Sarah Payne November 5th, 2009 9:53 pm Reply

    Sibylle – I thought that this was great, though I was surprised that the members were so ‘unsupportive’ of each other when issues revolved around anything except that cat photos. It made me wonder what the members got out of the community when I expected it to be friendly (as it involved pets).
    This disassociation reminded me of a quote from Hine

    ” this [arguement] is based on the assumption that what goes on in the internet is social interaction. Another way of looking, however, would see cyberspace as composed of texts, rather than being interactive” (Hine 2000, pg50)

    Perhaps this community is a collection of texts (or images) rather than a group of people actually interacting in a social forum?

  2. silvanad November 6th, 2009 1:41 am Reply

    Hi Sibylle, This is a very well constructed account and I like the way you interweaved the literature in your discussion. I was surprised by the number of members in this group and the authoritarian nature of its founder and leader and wonder whether her strictness over rules was a factor in inhibiting members from putting too much emotional investment in the group.

  3. sian November 6th, 2009 4:55 pm Reply

    This is concise, thoughtful and really well-structured. I really like the analogy of the community members themselves as ’sleeping cats’ – the sleeping cat becomes a kind of totem, and a metaphor for the group’s own apparent desire to remain unconscious and unconcerned. Terrific. It made me think back to the notion of the ‘psychosocial moratorium’, the (virtual or developmental) space where there are no ‘real-world’ consequences or responsibilities. Is this really what many of us want from online ‘community’?

    Your extract on the deviant member who posts up a cat WITH OPEN EYES is hysterically under-stated : ) Love it!

  4. sibyller November 6th, 2009 10:41 pm Reply

    @Sarah Payne
    Yes, I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s a bit unfair to really call this a community, and the definition needs to include some kind of affinity which is clearly lacking here.

  5. Henry November 7th, 2009 10:22 am Reply

    Very insightful presentation and to some extent rather creepy.
    Here goes the myth that online communities tend to be supportive and caring.
    The dictatorial management of the group matches the one described by BB – so it is certainly not an isolated case.
    On the danger of being accused of sexism I observe that many cat lovers tend to be female – I wonder whether the pnline membership is biased in that way and if it is where have the caring female attributes gone within that group?

  6. arthurh November 7th, 2009 3:56 pm Reply

    Hi Sibylle,
    I really liked your understated analysis of this group that pretends to be a community and how you show the way the tone in an authoritarian group is set and with which ruthlessness it is upheld.
    The fat cat who runs the group becomes extremely catty on occasions. The administrator who missed the cat with open eyes really put the cat among the pigeons. When help is needed in this group it seems it’s a case of cat got your tongue.
    As a true cat lover (four at home) there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance that I would join this group.
    Thanks for the presentation

  7. jen November 11th, 2009 12:21 pm Reply

    “Caroline got annoyed” – just to echo the others and say that I found your presentation dry and understated and really very funny. Your suggestion that ‘bunkering in’ might partly explain the the group’s resistance to political or emotional engagement seemed apt – I was glad you brought this in. I really enjoyed this.

  8. Nicola Osborne November 13th, 2009 1:51 am Reply

    Sibylle, I really loved this piece and, at the risk of echoing what others have said again, thought the structuring was really clever. I thought it was interesting how commodotized the images of cats have become in this space. Both my partner and I have previously with people who spend much of the day looking at picture after picture after picture of cute cats or lolcats or I Can Has Cheezeburger? images. We both get the joke when it’s one or two images but seeing people page through them for hours on end has left us baffled as to the amusement.

    I’m going to lower the tone here and ask if spaces like Your Sleeping Cat might be the female equivalent to some of the (tasteful and generic titling option here) male-constructed user generated adult image/video sites? The transactions are blinkeredly focused on the commodity and the details of the commodity leaving community bonds weak or non existent aside from the fact that this is a shared space and each participant gets some sort of benefit out of the community’s cultural assets.

    Anyway, I loved the ethnography and will now desist from lowering the tone any further ;)

  9. sibyller November 13th, 2009 11:07 am Reply

    Thanks for these comments, I think this is a really interesting analogy to male or adult sights with the commodities being of greater importance than any sense of community. It does make women look very tame in comparison though.

  10. Nicola Osborne November 14th, 2009 2:09 am Reply

    I have to agree that in the battle of commodities Women come out some much more gracefully ;)

    Thank you for your kind comments about my own piece btw. I got seriously suckered into my community as I had no idea at the outset how creative the fans were. Television does play a huge part in the British identity because we traditionally had so few channels that you could assume most people had heard of many influential shows you encountered. I don’t know if the same will be true in 20+ years time given the fragmentation of the television audience (and this may be, actually, a good thing in terms of being less parochial in our national obsessions!).

  11. lesley ferguson December 2nd, 2009 10:58 pm Reply

    Sybille, I could listen to your soothing voice forever….I have to say this view did influence how I felt about your ethnograph so I was already feeling drawn to your topic even although I do not really like cats. I think this highlights a really important point that audio content can have significant influence on our views and opinions about a topic. thank you for drawing this to my attention. i think I quite like cats now LOL.

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