A Micro-Ethnography?

A Micro-Ethnography?

What are ethnographies, netnographies and can you produce one on an xMOOC? Learn about all this and about making omelettes in this video.

In this video I also tried to include metaphors and some humour, knowing of course that it is quite a challenge for viewers, being confronted with a German trying to be funny. But it seems there is nothing I am not willing to try when experimenting with learning and teaching approaches… I also experimented with scripted film-like sequences. Oh my… The idea, only some of a few hidden in the video, is that people like stories, people like theoretical facts in a fork they can relate to, people like to be entertained, all of which might lead to a better understanding. Does it work? You tell me, dear viewer.

Of course any ethnography, even a micro ethnography, even one merely tried like this one, must pay tribute to the chosen format. A written academic piece will need to make use of different stylistic means than one delivered as a film. For the film, it must be fairly short, the spoken sentences must be short, too, the presented information must be precise, yet limitted for possible understaning and with all good video productions which aim at delivering information, from all the knowledge known, teyts read and thoughts had, only few should be presented. Videos are consumed differently from texts and must therefor, of they want to succeed, by plain, not difficult, be easy, not hard, even if this might be a threat to the producer, whomight be understodd to be just as plain and simple, when one forgets that this impression might just be correctly applyed productional and academic kmow-how.

12 thoughts on “A Micro-Ethnography?

  1. Hello Dirk, thanks for this thoughtful and entertaining reflection on your chosen MOOC (and MOOCS more broadly).

    Your video provoked a number of interesting questions, not least whether that was Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) reimagined as Brexit and performed by Playmobil characters?!

    The point you make about the absence of community and the forum in particular made me think about other online community spaces that were once popular but soon became deserted. I’m sure I won’t be the first person to suggest this, however your description of the lack of activity in the MOOC made me think of those Wild West towns in the US which would empty when the gold rush moved elsewhere, leaving behind a ghost town with a creaking sign (the welcome message in the forum?) swinging in the wind. Communities form and then they disassemble and move on.

    I recently re-read Tom Boellstorf’s ethnography ‘Coming of Age in Second Life’. It was published in 2008 which I imagine would have when been the excitement around Second Life might have been at its highest. Having watched your video which highlights how the particular MOOC community has fallen away (if it ever existed in the first place), I’d now be really interested in an updated edition of Boellstorf’s work where he goes back to the same places in Second Life – assuming they still exist – to see whether there is still the same strong sense community that he described. Or perhaps all the SL members have moved into studying MOOCs!

    Finally, you describe how the the nature of your chosen MOOC was a bit like a novel where the content already exists and you simply follow your own path to the conclusion. Bearing in mind the subject matter of the MOOC – and as you point out in your reference to ‘old school teaching’ – this seemed out of step with the possibilities of blended online teaching. So as with Helen’s blog (which I see you have already commented on) that’s a lack of coherence – a dissonance – between the form and suggested purpose of the MOOC. I wonder whether the absence of community and activity is a product of this apparent disconnect?

    As you say, you didn’t learn so much about the nature of community as you did about the absence of community within a MOOC, but you did learn – and convey – some really ideas around MOOCs more generally. Great work.

  2. Thanks (imagine all caps here!)!
    I did not know about these Argonauts, but got the book now, as it seems interesting. Made me think of Gulliver’s Travels or Evelyn Waugh’s “Black Mischief”… And yes, me sitting in a jacket in front of a bookshelf, a globe to my side followed by a film in retina – of course I was mimicking those old anthropologists, paying tribute to them, yet with a wink of an eye. (I might smoke a pipe next time.)

    And re-reading my introdictory text to the video above, I should stop working and typing on my iPad. I make enough spelling errors already without all these typos. Oh dear… Typing on glass is like ice skating on dope.

    1. From recollection, Malinowski’s text begins with him describing landing on the shores of the Trobrian Islands and meeting the natives for the first time. Your Playmobile sketch seemed to replace the island and the friendly natives with people and places closer to home! And I somehow overlooked your armchair anthropologist persona – as you’ll see from my comments on your weekly summary – so yes, you should have gone for the pipe. By coincidence, I think there’s a line of argument that Malinowski was the first researcher to really get out into the field, in contrast to the armchair anthropologists that you depict in your video.

      It’s brilliant that, like the visual artefacts, these micro ethnographies are working on a number of levels where a further dimension of criticality only reveals itself through conversation. Really, it’s great to be a tutor and being able to watch all this work across the group unfold.

  3. Dirk, your ethnography, as is so much of your interaction and commentary on EDC, has been, alternative, thought provoking and, dare I say, quirky. Its always welcome to have an dissonant voice in a programme like ours to combat against group thinking, although Im sure we all tried hard not to do it. Its a truly scientific approach!

    I enjoyed the frank and critical assessment of your MOOC and how you weaved it into your documentary/reality show type presentation. Based on your review here and my previous experiences I have changed my opinion on the xMOOC which I now find very cold, lonely and very clinical.

    1. Very happy to read this! I like “quirky”! I believe and hope that a certain sense of bafflement keeps up attention and only if we are watching, only if we keep watching, we can hear what is being said 😉

  4. 🙂 always entertaining and thought provoking. I think I will now always have a picture of you hugging a lamp post.

    I think James nailed it with the vision of the old ghost town, I had a similar thought about the absence of community and interaction in my mooc, for me it was “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller, anyone, anyone…”


    1. Always have a picture of me hugging a post – this is exactly why I produce these pictures. I hope that you remember a picture and this helps you make more sustainable memories of the video and its contents 🙂 I am using TV tricks for education 😉
      And Bueler? Ace!

  5. Dirk, you’re a natural in front of the camera! And I loved the post-Brexit Playmobil piece ‘There are other people coming to our island’/’Oh my god!’ (like you, I hadn’t heard of Malinowski’s work, but I’ll now seek it out.)

    It’s a great idea to look at an ‘old’ MOOC to see what’s happening there. I really liked your deconstruction of the ‘Welcome’ message: ‘You must be kidding, you don’t care.’ And the hugging of the post on the post: brilliant. As you engagingly explain, these misguided gestures by ‘the staff’ to create a community are ineffective and demonstrate a lack of creative thought about how communities build online.

    This video is brilliantly produced too: as an aside, what microphone/software were you using?

    1. Thanks for making me blush 🙂

      My technical setup:
      ipad Air
      FiLMiC Pro (app for recording video)
      iRig Pro (for connecting mic to iPad)
      phantom powered clip-on mic (unknown brand)
      Pinnacle Pro (iPad app for video editing)
      Audacity (PC software for audio noise reduction)
      Garageband (app for music composition and recording)

  6. Your wry observations made me smile, Dirk – and it was, as others have commented, impressively crafted.
    I’m interested to know what the course materials were like for creating online and blended learning – were they similarly ‘instructionist’?
    You note that those seeking an online course should be careful to choose something that matches what they are looking for – be it community or content. Do you think that the choice of ‘best’ learning environment is just down to individual preference, or do some have more pedagogic value than others?

    Also – I blogged about ‘the intimacy of the xMOOC while on IDEL. If you’re interested, I’ve opened the post up – I can’t seem to see how to make it public but you should be able to view it when logged-in to EASE. If it doesn’t work (and you’re still keen to read it – there is mention of pyjamas, ice cream and toilet trips) let me know, and I’ll add you as a user.

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