Daily Archives: February 19, 2017

Week 5 weekly thoughts

Wall Door Ark Rampart Creative Commons Zero – CC0.

This week has been about ways of inhabiting and mapping spaces, about how text and language constitute community within them, inflected by affording mediating technologies. I’ve been dwelling in the ‘habitable sphere’ Hine mentions (2011) and Bayne’s ‘smooth space’ (2004).

My lifestream has automagically become a house with decorated walls; friendly, permeable dividers which delineate my area within the EDC community. The soundtrack has featured doors banging, voices and footsteps sounding and receding as fellow-students come and go. I’ve met them in various technologies and Eli has adorned our public place with a map of the physical sphere with our habitations marked upon it.

Friends have dropped by and I’ve popped out to graffiti other walls. I’ve relocated to my mooc space, noting tensions about travel. It’s a more structured and less penetrable lodging, where, as I spend more active engagement and lurker time, I’m getting to chart more of the territory. All the while, my lifestream pad has been getting increasingly untidy, littered with tweets which need gathering and sorting and full of uncommented posts which I’d be embarrassed for anyone to see before I’ve tidied up.

In all spaces I have been considering observation and perception – thoughts muddled with the phenomenology I’ve been reading about in the mooc – being both perceiver and documenter. Thoughts about whether phenomenology might help with the postmodern ethnographer’s crisis involving ‘reconsiderations of the nature of representation, description, subjectivity, objectivity …’ (Hine, 2000, quoting Marcus) or hinder it, or just stop where it is, examining my confusion …

Like a binary star, the subjective and objective orbit each other

(Mooc leader, Professor Dan Lloyd, Trinity College)

Hine, C. (2011) The Sage Handbook of Online Research Methods, Virtual Ethnography: Modes, Varieties, Affordances. Sage Publications Ltd. https://mr.crossref.org/iPage?doi=10.4135%2F9780857020055

Hine, C. (2000). The virtual objects of ethnography, Chapter 3 of Virtual Ethnography. London: Sage. pp. 41-66

Bayne, S. (2004). Smoothness and Striation in Digital Learning Spaces, E-Learning and Digital Media. Vol 1(2).  pp. 302 – 316

Says who?

I have been experiencing some tensions and uncertainties about conducting a netnography. As noted by Hine (2000), the virtual ethnographer no longer has to make an arduous journey to reach the field site, the journey conferring some authority on the documenter. It is easy to drop in on a mooc, so what sort of passport or stamp of authority have I obtained to comment on what I find? One solution Hine offers is active engagement in the course:

The ethnographer is still uniquely placed to give an account of the field site, based on their experience of it and their interaction with it.

(Hine, 2000, p.46)

But is this active engagement compromised if it isn’t wholly authentic, if my motivation for following the course differs from the other students? (How I might know that it does is another question.)  There are tensions for me, too, in assuming the role of documenter when I am a long way from fully understanding the subject of study and yet purporting to reflect an accurate account of the field site. This nagging anxiety remains even though I know that I am better able to attune to the experience of the other students precisely because none of us are masters of it.

There are yet more tensions when I come to think about interpreting (this word/idea is freighted and needs unpacking) and about subjectivity and objectivity. As a netnographer, I think I need to achieve as close an intersubjectivity as possible with the mooc students in order to best relate “the sights and sounds” of the mooc space.

Hine, C (2000) The virtual objects of ethnography, chapter 3 of Virtual ethnography. London: Sage. pp41-66