Monthly Archives: February 2017

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

Favourite tweets! Revealing the imagination of another

I liked this tweet because it speaks of a method of revealing something authentic about another person. This resonates with an ethnographic perspective as well and a phenomenological one. It also reminds me of my exploration of sense-making in my last mscde module: in that case it was ambiguity which acted as a catalyst for the ‘observer’ to uncover tacit knowledge held by the ‘observed’.

Some mooc notes

The communication between students in the mooc I have enrolled in is markedly different to that afforded by, and encouraged in EDC. Here, we can contact and engage each other via blog posts and comments (on both our own and the EDC blog); we can communicate on the mscde hub and on twitter; we can email each other or use direct tweets for less public messages; we can see each other in hangouts; we have reached out to other communities and contacts to expand our community.

Even contained within the most restrictive LMS and confined to a discussion board, learners in courses on the xMOOC spectrum nonetheless are exposed, in effect, to a fledgling network.

(Stewart, 2013)

The network on the mooc I am enrolled in (most suitably described as an xMooc I think now) could definitely be described as fledgling, but I am not sure that it is “sow[ing] the very seeds of new literacies that challenge and undermine that instrumentalist perspective on education and expertise” (Stewart, 2013, p.234) to which Stewart lays claim (some unstructured thoughts on Stewart, 2013 here).

For the most part, as far as I have observed, the participants fit into the Newbie category defined by Kozinets because they can each be aptly described as

a new member who is using the community to learn about the core consumption activity

(Kozinets, 2010)

although, over time, I think their commitment to the community might grow and their interaction and participation types change.

At the moment, I have no way of knowing if my fellow-students on the mooc fit into Kozinets’ Network category. They may have strong participation in other communities and have “reached into” the mooc for the specific purpose of following and being credentialed for the course.

My forays into the mooc have probably passed unnoticed by the other students. I have not posted anything regarding the motivation behind my presence, although I did email the course leader to ask for his permission. His response came promptly and was kind and interested, asking whether I would give him a copy of the report and to get in touch if I needed him to act as ‘informant’. I am prompted to think about how,

even online, the relationship between ethnographer, reader and research subjects is still inscribed in the ethnographic text

(Hine, 2000)

Although what form the text should take hasn’t fully emerged yet :).

I am also interested to read Hine on informants:

while pursuing face-to-face meetings with online informants might be intended to enhance authenticity via triangulation (Silverman, 1993; Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995), it might also threaten the experiential authenticity that comes from aiming to understand the world the way it is for informants.

(Hine, 2000, p.49)

My mooc has turned connectivist! Lots of activity in the Discussion Forums – much food for ethnographic thought.

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

Kozinets, R. V. (2010). Chapter 2 ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage. pp. 21-40.

Stewart, B., (2013). Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Technology, 9(2), pp.228–238.

Pinterest! The last bastion of what it is to be human?

Just Pinned to Education and Digital Cultures: AI Predicting Emotion in Conversations Click Listen in pop-out player Researchers from MIT say that they are developing an artificially intelligent wearable system that can predict if a conversation is happy, sad or neutral based on a person’s speech patterns and vitals.
This post is linked to this one


Mindmapping one of the primary readings (Kozinets, 2010) has enabled me to outline a temporal and physical landscape of the online communities and the ethnographical research into them the author describes and pin it to the walls of my lifestream by the four corners.

Creating the map merely by quoting and grouping what seem to me to be salient points has helped fix them in my mind and will hopefully act as an aide-memoire for future reference. The map has a link to the Kozinets article, but could be improved by linking to the other papers.


Massiveness and Openness

After reading Bonnie Stewart’s article, Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation, I had lots of questions and reactions. I have started to put these on a padlet page to return to as I reflect and read more over the coming days:

Stewart, B., (2013). Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Technology, 9(2), pp.228–238.