This week has been such fun! I have connected with so many different people on the course in such a variety of ways. See if you can match the images below  with whom I interacted. Each picture is a snippet of Anne’s, Stuart’s, Linzi’s and Eli’s lives that I wouldn’t necessarily have found out about had we stayed in the ‘educational spaces’ of EDC.

It started out with Stuart; we had a productive Skype chat to compare notes about what we had found doing the same MOOC. It was interesting see how he approached things so differently to how I did. As we chatted I noticed that the conversation changed from the academic to something much more like the banter that exists with my colleagues at work.

I had an interesting tweet exchange with Eli which made me question whether MOOCs are still massive and thanks to connecting with Stuart I know how massive the Internet of Things MOOC actually is.

Linzi proposed a Skype chat on Twitter, which Eli, Stuart and I signed up for. This gave us an opportunity to catch up in a less formal environment than we have before. We were able to compare notes about our musings on Education and Digital Culture and the MOOCs we are doing. Conversation flowed much more easily than it did in the Hangout tutorial, I think we agreed that it is more stilted in the Hangout because we are self-conscious of making a mistake in front of everyone and looking unprepared or silly. We could relax more. It was good to hear that others also felt ‘naked’, or rather awkward and embarrassed, about having their assessed work and feedback available for all to see.

Anne and I had a chat on our WhatsApp group while we were reading the comments of our MOOC together. This was so helpful and caused us to pick out exact exchanges that have been useful when formulating our ideas. Anne also found a WhatsApp MOOC group for two-hundred-and-fifty students on IoT.

It seems these secret groups are a thing in MOOCs, as Eli shared that she was invited to join a ‘secret’ Facebook group. I thought having a WhatsApp group was intriguing as I would classify this as private space. Anne and I continued our discussion via a WhatsApp phone call on Friday, providing support and chatter about our plans for our studies.

Lessons learnt: What micro-ethnography has taught me about research. Week 6

So many MOOCs

I persevered with the Internet of Things (IoT). I tried to become part of the community and searched for meaning in the comments. I did not find anything that was able to inspire me. I was bored and found myself avoiding the course. I did some of the activities to try and gain a better understanding but ultimately focused on participation or lack thereof. Whilst reading the comments in the IoT, I struggled to make sense of what was written. I was frustrated. I did not interact with others or actively participate in situated learning and I was not interested enough to apply critical perspectives to my participation (Stewart 2013).

I wondered why I found it so difficult to engage. I decided to try another course. I enrolled on to two other MOOCs; FutureLearn’s Teaching Literacy Through Film (TLTF) and Coursera’s Writing in English at University.  I chose these because I have knowledge of the content and I could focus more on the community and participation. I realised quickly that Writing in English at University was a poor choice and not ‘open’ as participants are required to pay for interaction.

TLTF appealed to me as I have used films in class to assist with literacy. I noticed a difference in the course almost immediately, it was more transparent, participants were encouraged to share personal information, there was discussion between participants, the atmosphere was friendlier and community more generous with their interaction. I was surprised to find that I wanted to be there. It did not feel like a chore unlike the IoT.

By changing MOOCs I discovered:

  1. being engaged with what we are researching makes it so much more meaningful
  2. if something is not working while you research, try something new
  3. communities can be both selfish and generous
  4. by comparing and contrasting information, we can make sense of it

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

Tweet: Twitter in MOOCs

I found this blog post through Renée Furner because I was really struggling to find any participant engagement outside of the MOOC I am doing. I eventually found the paper the blog is based on . It made me wonder why Twitter isn’t being used more in MOOCs since I’m finding it increasingly useful to engage with the MSCEDC community.

From this tweet I had and interesting conversation with Philip Downey about this very topic.

Building communities

Twitter is restrictive when trying to convey meaning so we moved our conversation into direct messaging and outside of the public sphere.

Connecting in private

When I consider that it has taken about six weeks for me to connect with, and feel like I’m part of a community, I realise why Twitter may not be useful for connecting in MOOCs. It takes time to build relationships and see how we might be able to interact with others both within and out of an educational context. I suspect interaction on Twitter might not be successful because MOOCs simply don’t run long enough to build those relationships.

Community in the private space. Week 5

Community within the same space? Photo: @The Mirror

I’ve been delving deeper into the Internet of Things (IoT) MOOC and I find it ironic that a course essentially about the communication between devices doesn’t champion communication between participants. I am surprised at how little interaction there is between participants. It is difficult to connect with others as there isn’t any social media space connected to the course. It seems the only contact people have with each other is if they ‘like’ a comment, to which doesn’t happen very often. The most ‘likes’ I’ve seen on a post, so far, is four. Participants have the ability to reply to a comment and while this occasionally does happen it seems to happen in a void where people who posted the first comments don’t reply to the thread. There is such limited potential to develop autonomous channels of communication (Stewart 2013) that much of what is communicated is repetitive and limits inquiry outside the content presented on the course.

This apparent lack of communication has led me to question the whether educational communities can be established in an xMOOC. I wonder how communities might be built without extended connectivity. How do those communities go about interacting if they aren’t assisted through the platform via social media?  Is FutureLearn as the private platform, where the IoT MOOC is hosted, discouraging communities from connecting? Social media sites like Twitter are not being exploited, this makes connecting with others more difficult. The limited contact participants have with each other does not promote an environment of community learning.

It is also very difficult to find people with whom to connect. Comments are presented in Facebook wall fashion but it’s quite difficult to see how active a person has been. There is no search function for why they might be interested in the topic. There is no way of knowing whether they a product developer, researcher, business, or just interested in finding out more? Even once ‘following’ another participant there is no way of directly communicating with them.

Geographical location seems important for the course content because the capabilities of connectivity for the IoT is dependent on connectivity. Again, there is no way to search for people who might be able to offer suggestions or alternatives for specific geographic locations because finding out where people are based is impossible unless they put it in their profile, which most don’t.

As a participant, I have a feeling of being blind to the community in IoT because can’t see individuals. It is similar to standing in a crowded station blindfolded. I can hear the announcements (from the teacher), I can hear specific comments from other participants, but don’t know how they fit into the greater context or whether there are any real conversations happening.  Which leads me to question whether people at the same train station can be considered part of a community? Ultimately they have the same place/space in common, they all will have travelled by train but eventually they will be travelling to different destinations, probably with their headphones on and trying to avoid eye contact.

FutureLearn (2017). The Internet of Things. Retrieved: 6 February 2017.

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

Finding meaning in things or flings. Week 4

How do we construct meaning in online exchanges?

How do we express what we really mean? Especially when there is much depth to the topic we are discussing. The expression of depth and meaning was quite challenging when making our visual artefact. This is evident through the conversations that have subsequently transpired. The intention of the creator is not always the same as the interpretation of the reader or viewer. Getting meaning across is no small feat! I struggle with this when writing academically and it was exacerbated further when I tried to portray my critical thinking in a picture.

It was while I was grappling with ‘online interaction’, ‘initial assumptions’ and ‘developing nuanced understandings of the online social world’ (Kozinets 2010) of participating in the online community that is Education and Digital Cultures, that I had a discussion with two other participants that left me utterly perplexed. Perhaps this is what Kozinets (2010) meant about ‘interpretive social cues'(p 24) developing between communities. The discussion is below:

What ultimately left me perplexed is how a conversation started by discussing MOOCs ended up with ‘[t]he sex industry’ being ‘an early adopter of new tech’. Did I miss something? Some earlier conversation where this would make sense? Is this part of the heirachy of our own online community of which I am not a part? Perhaps I’m looking too hard for meaning and this is simply an effort to build rapport in our online community. It’s lead me to question; how do we construe meaning from online exchanges that are less than 140 characters long? Is what we are trying to express being accurately conveyed? Do our readers/viewers understand what we mean? How do we record and interpret qualitative data objectively if a) the meaning is not clear; b) if we are part of that community ourselves?

I suppose what I’m wondering, as we head off to do our own ethnographic studies in our MOOCs, is how to construct meaning out of comments and behaviour online when it is clear that we cannot take all information we see at face value. I look forward to finding out.

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


This tweet sparked a really interesting conversation between Renée and me.

She shared a paper I look forward to exploring. One I might have inadvertently been the subject of too.

Gatson, S. N. and Zweerink, A. (2004)  Ethnography online: ‘natives’ practising and inscribing community. Qualitative Research, 4(2): pp. 179-200.

Prevent (and) discrimination. Week 3

Students protesting Prevent Duty Photo: @BeMedia

I’ve been grappling with how Donna Haraway’s utopian metaphor of the cyborg relates to our relationship with technology and contemporary politics, as well as how it fits in with digital education.

If we are to live as cyborgs as Haraway’s metaphor suggests, we cannot divorce our own nature and history from that of our future selves. This seems implausible, unachievable and very much like an allegorical fairy tale from bygone times. But much like those fairy tales about power and loss, we see the dominations of ‘race’, ‘gender’, ‘sexuality’ and ‘class’, by those in positions of power, evident throughout our technological world.

There are countless examples of oppression in relation to technology. There are examples of the disparities; of how wealthy (white) companies still exploit poor (black) countries and their people for their resources without supporting the connectivity needs of those countries. Since The Cyborg Manifesto was published we have seen the gender gap in careers in technology widen. The digital divide is persistent in developed countries with regards to location and income and ethnic background; while undeveloped countries struggle to find alternative ways to access information with the lack of infrastructure.

In relation to education, Watters in her article Ed-Tech in the Time of Trump gives examples of how universities can use data to carry out surveillance on students and staff. She demonstrates how this happens through the collection of data. Using data, universities, big companies, governments and powerful individuals are able to control what we see, where we go and how we access information. This is evident in the UK with the Government’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy and how universities are tasked with monitoring extremism with the Prevent Duty agenda. Students are being monitored more than ever before.

The ‘ubiquity’ and ‘invisibility’ of the cyborg that Haraway dreams of is simply not possible because the technology and the spaces that we inhabit when online, have been taught to recognise us. Technology has been taught to read us, tasked to find out what we like, see what we look like and with whom we engage. It knows what we buy, sell, watch, read, and search for. It knows where we worship and who we love. It knows us. Most importantly technology has been taught to remember this information, this information then shapes our experiences online.

The control universities, companies and governments have over our information perpetuates the injustices and exclusions that occur in the physical world. If individuals are not aware of the information that is being collected, and of how that information is being used, they could marginalised without knowing it.

Haraway, D (1991). “A cyborg manifesto” from Bell, David; Kennedy, Barbara M (eds), The cyber cultures reader pp.34-65, London Routledge

Watters, A (2017). Ed-Tech in a time of Trump. Retrieved: 6 February 2017

Performativity and collapse of context in an educational space. Week 2

Performativity and collapse of context. Source: Pinterest

I have been watching with interest how open, educational spaces might affect those working within them. As I’m sure many teachers do, when a student on a course, I always think about how I could apply the content, methodology and theory I am learning to my practice. It was while I was working through the blogs posted on Education and Digital Culture that Judith Butler’s concept of ‘performativity’ became increasingly pertinent to me. She discusses how we perform our identity with the world around us largely in relation to each other. She talks about identity being fluid because one performs different identities in different contexts and how identities are constructed around those respective contexts (Ruitenburg 2007).

Unsurprisingly, there is a high usage of social media on this course. What is surprising to me is that many are using personal and professional social media accounts in an educational context. It’s been interesting to watch how this plays out and how there is a collapse of context (boyd 2002) of our class on multiple, open, online platforms. We are exposed to parts of each other we wouldn’t normally see in a face-to-face class. We are each performing parts of ourselves online with identities that are already established (for example our political/social identities) and then contributing to our ‘digital culture’ identities which are works in progress. Thereby creating new identities together because performativity is not a single action but a series of actions or ‘the cumulative  power of repeated speech’ (Ruitenburg 2007, p 263).

The mixing of some participants’ personal, public and educational identities has been both intriguing and uncomfortable to watch. There are clearly participants who are much more comfortable sharing of themselves. I am one of those who find it difficult to share myself online, not only because I like to compartmentalise my interaction but also because I worry how different parts will relate to each other.

At the beginning of week 1, I posted a design by Dominique Falla from Instagram saying “We are all part of the same thing”. Indeed this is what I thought, that naïvely we would be discussing education, digital culture and other such related topics. We are discussing relevant content, but at the same time the collapse of context where the personal becomes the educational makes me realise that perhaps we are all part of the same thing and perhaps our discourse outside of the educational supports our performativity within it.

boyd, d. (2013). how “context collapse” was coined: my recollection. Retrieved: 20 January 2017.

Ruitenburg, C. (2007). Discourse, Theatrical Performance, Agency: The Analytic Force of “Performativity” in Education. Philosophy of Education: pp. 260-268


A life held in common: What is digital culture? Week 1

Image by Lily*Anna

Over the week I grappled with many questions about culture and digital culture. What is culture? Does it evolve or is it made? How does it influence digital culture? Where does digital culture come from? As there is a single web, is there a mono-cultural aspect to the Internet? How do sub-cultures influence that which is considered to be mainstream? I don’t know if in the next few weeks I’ll be able to answer any of these but they certainly have me thinking.

The English Oxford Living Dictionaries states that culture originates from the Latin word cultura meaning growing or cultivation. It goes on to define culture as the ‘arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively’ or as the ‘ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’. In these definitions people seem to have much control. I wonder why this definition sought to clarify that it was ‘human intellectual achievement’, is there another kind? Are they making a subversive reference to artificial intelligence?

Culture also relates to the biological, such as the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells and cultivation of plants. Similarly online, objects, artefacts, media and sites are cultivated or curated. They are maintained. This gives us the imagery of something living but at the same time conserved. Is digital culture manageable in the same way? Can we maintain it? Who does this responsibility fall to? Is its potential for growth is endless? What will the impact of endless growth be?

The most favourable definition of culture I’ve found so far is one put forward by Paul James et al (2015); ‘[c]ulture is defined as a social domain that emphasizes the practices, discourses and material expressions, which, over time, express the continuities and discontinuities of social meaning of a life held in common’ (p 53). Even though James is not speaking about digital culture in particular, I like the fact that he has included a ‘life held in common’ because we so often share our lives, not only with one another but also with inanimate objects. How often do we consider our living space as an extension of ourselves, the things that we collect as part of us? Are our machines not the same? Don’t we share our lives with them too?

I think what I’ll be looking at throughout the course is that while living our lives in online spaces we are creating meaning from a ‘life held in common’ with both other people and machines. How we influence each other, how machines influence us and ultimately what we create together?

(James, P.,  Magee, L., Scerri, A., and Steger, M. B. (2015). Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of Sustainability. (London, Routledge).