Archive for the weekly summaries category
This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series weekly summaries

This week was taken up with recovering from my ethnographic experience and viewing those of others.  Thus my lifestream got a bit neglected.  Pity the hard work of ploughing through Haraway doesn’t show up on it.  I have to admit  reading this text, ironically, made me regret for the first time not having face to face tutorials.  I could really do with help, the kind of intense help you get with a face to face discussion.  While I understand the overall message there is so much I just don’t get.  It is like a treasure chest of ideas that are meaningless to me.  So many of her statements left me crying “Why? What do you mean by that?”

Anyway, I will leave deeper ponderings to another post, in the meantime – check out your cyborg name:

Transforming Robotic Android Calibrated for Yelling

Get Your Cyborg Name

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This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series weekly summaries

I feel like I am getting a little behind (this always seems to happen in the middle of a course) I get distracted by stuff.  Stuff in this case being two rather different things.

Firstly (and this is the good news) my chosen focus for my digital ethnography – role-playing, which means of course I have got back into ROLEPLAYING and filling my lifestream with Dungeons and Dragons related links and quotes, and 20 sided dice references which just makes me want to blow the dust off my tired old Goddess of The Underworld and give her a new look.

Secondly the Fluff Friends Trick-or-Treat 2009 Halloween Hunt, which is addictive cos I have to Trick and Treat on lots of people’s fluff pages to get candy points (and actual virtual candy which I can feed my fluff) and then I can convert my candy points into candles, which also give me golden candle points.  And If I get enough golden candle points… I get a scarecrow with which I can scare the crows off my pumpkin patch – and something about a lantern, and a haunted house and a candy bowl.  Anyway I am addicted but not sufficiently addicted to make the grade so this is another Fluff contest I failed at.  Just like the egg hunt – but at least I don’t have blisters on my clicking finger this time.

This was a week 6 update wasn’t it?

In a sense it is.  Fluff friends may look like a bunch of adults, who should know better, petting cartoon animals, but it is a great community.  Very warm and supportive, full off the spirit of sharing and gifting; which is rare in large communities like this.  I have never seen a flaming or spamming post on a Fluff page – just lots of thanks and praise.  It like Little House on the Prairie digitized.

Of course when it comes to digital ethnography we get nervous around words like ‘community‘  how do we define our terms.  How do we prove that what we are observing (or participating in – another kettle of fish) a community if the members never meet?

“an online community is a community if participants imagine themselves as a community” (Baym, 1998 via Bell, 2001)

I think self-definition is important, but one thing I have learned this week is we are in a dodgy branch of a dodgy science.  Ethnographists get sneered at when they are knee deep in their meatself muddy ethnographic experience and have the mosquito bites to proove it, and even they sneer at virtual ethnographers (in between recurring bouts of malaria probably).  The question of community on the internet reminds me of the question of personal authenticity on the internet.  I think we are only discussing these issues (and the discussion is important) because we are relative new to this medium of… communication? Communication seems such a small word for what happens when we get online these days, I would prefer to call it medium of being.

I like Hine’s (2000) take on authenticity:

A search for truly authentic knowledge about people or phenomena is doomed to be ultimately irresolvable. The point for the ethnographer is not to bring some exernal criterion for judging whether it is safe to believe what informants say, but rather to come to understand how it is that informants judge authenticity.

You get frauds, liars and false communities in face to face environments and yes the internet makes it easier for them to operate – but you are soon able to sense a genuine community as you can a genuine person, through sustained contact, whether that contact be meeting them over dinner, reading their posts, or petting their unicorn (yes we are back to Fluff Friends again). The question of whether or not an online community is invalid because of their lack of face to face contact will I am sure become invalid soon enough.

In the meantime I imagine Fluff friends is a community because:

  • When I am busy my neighbours drop by to feed and pet my wallaby.
  • If I give someone’s lecoon a cinnamon roll they leave a thank you note in my letterbox.
  • There are rules and if I break them I will be cast out (temporarily or permanently depending on the severity of my crime).
  • It has informal standards of acceptable behavior (more subtle than the rules) and if I don’t follow this I will be scorned by my neighbours.
  • If I work hard, am generous and mindful of others I am rewarded with success and approval.
  • But, most importantly… because a friend gave me a little blue werewolf despite the fact I couldn’t give her my golden candle points, because she knew I loved him and I couldn’t afford him.

Here he is (with my baby wallaby and my regular wolf):


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This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series weekly summaries

Ok I can’t resist I have to formally weigh in on Jen and Andy’s Cabinet of Curiosities discussion (and I have loved and been inspired by the interactions in this block – an idyllic learning environment indeed).  To summarise, the metaphor of lifestreaming as curatorship poses several ethical questions regarding the collection of items of interest. Quoting from Tony’s blog:

Cabinets of curiosities or Wunderkammern are collections of ’strange’ and ‘primitive’ artefacts – some natural, some hand-made -  acquired and displayed by mainly wealthy collectors. They belong to a culture of aristocrats, gentlemen or aspiring gentlemen and are also part and parcel of the phenomenon of the grand tour. To be one of the curiosi, is to reveal a fineness of sensibility, an appreciation of the sublime but also an understanding of what’s really art – and what’s just … well …  ’strange’ ( a ‘curiosity’).  So, I see them as being one of the ways in which a particular class of men distinguished themselves aesthetically, and through this, socially.

The ethical question posed here is the power inherent in being associated with a collecting elite.  Whether the prestige garnered from owning a collection is social, economic or (in our case) intellectual we are involving ourselves in a power game – and potentially gathering influence by having the ‘right’ things in our collection. In the world of material artifacts whether items are gathered for private  or public collections there is often an issue of legality in their appropriation.  This too has a parallel in our digital collections.  None of the images I gathered for my video were from creative commons sources, though I did relent and use Audioswap to remove my copyright non-compliant soundtrack, replacing it with something from You Tube’s library.  However I think the illegal appropriation of copy-righted images (and sound) is an important topic as is the ethics of collecting.  What about the future? Will the dynamic user-generated momentum of Cyberia carry us into a a virtual lifeworld everything is up for grabs? If we can all own everything will prestige come only our apparent discernment over what we have included (and chosen to exclude) and the consequent approbation from our cyberpeers registered in hits and comments?

If so will be be moving forwards or backwards?

After a quick hit and run mission on google to appropriate images for this post (see below) I notice that this topic has many miles yet.  Ethnography is just as much a controversial and power riddled issue as the collection of visual artifacts. So don’t put your pith helmets and shrunken heads in storage just yet!


Ladies who collect, from l2r: Alexandrine Tinne, Mary Kingsley, Delia Akeley and of course Lara Croft (below)


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This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series weekly summaries


I was just reading Hand (2008) and pondering how:

Power in digital culture indexes an increasing tendency toward the total surveillance and administration of society, now conducted through globally gathered and sorted digital information. The results of this will paradoxically be greater insecurity, an intense amplification of existing social divisions, and the consumerization of democratic citizenship. (Hand 2008, p39)

Hands comments that:

But such regulatory machines may be user-generated in wikis, or subject to top-down political intervention (as in China). Indeed, Poster (2006) observes that the territoriality of the subject is minimized in digital culture, but it is not eradicated. (Hand 2008, p38)

This reminded me of a colleague had posted on his Facebook status updates (not sure how) that he “cant see anything thats going on in Facebook as he is stuck behind the Great Firewall of China!” and I thought I would share it with my #ededc colleagues:

lahirondelle #ededc a friend of mine can’t view FB as he is “stuck behind the great firewall of china”; Thai gov blocked U-Tube for months – thoughts?

This was posted at 16.08 and at 16.37 I recieved the following tweet from 12vpn:

@lahirondelle We can help your friend access FB in China, also U-Tube in Thai,

That is just plain spooky.  Feeling a bit insecure now.

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This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series weekly summaries

Well, I am enjoying myself collecting things for my lifestream, though my collecting is still very experimental as I am not sure a) what to collect or b) why I am collecting (other than because it says I should in the handbook).  However the pleasure of collecting has already superseded the desire for obedience, so I feel like I am amassing baubles and trinkets.  Which made me think of magpies “oh shiney” and then bower birds:

YouTube Preview Image

Bower birds and magpies have good reasons for their obsessive collection of pretty things – they do it to attract a mate.  Is that our reason?  Are we just trying to attract attention?  I suspect this is the main reason for almost everything we do online (apart from education of course).

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