Life(stream) comes at you fast: Week 7 summary

The most remarkable thing about my lifestream this week is the massive increase in content, particularly compared to the past couple of weeks. In a deliciously meta twist, the reasons for this are also, weirdly, the themes of my lifestream: reaction and community.

The mid-course feedback I received quite rightly suggested that I consider additional ways to feed content into the lifestream. I wrote about a specific (albeit rather miniature) dilemma I faced in response to this. The feedback also encouraged me to reflect further on how I’m using IFTTT. Adding posts from Pinterest, for example, like this one, require readjustment to make them fit, and the time it takes to fix them often feels double the time it would take to add the content directly. This helped me to shape a presentation given to grad students at work, focusing on employing IFTTT in a far more instrumental way than I am here. [Click the image below to see the slides].

Reaction and community intersect evidently in terms of the response of EDC community to the micro-ethnographies posted by me and my supremely talented classmates. This is demonstrated in a series of comments (here, here, here), many tweets, and follow-ups to read in our post-netnography haze (here, here, here). I also included my personal reaction to tweeting a piece of academic work. One particular thing I was intrigued by is the way our expressions of community on Twitter were often non-verbal; they were endorsements, RTs or favourites. I considered this further in a blog post about a viral meme.

It’s been a week of reconsidering what ‘community’ can mean, and the assortment of ways in which cohesion might be considered in relation to it. It isn’t necessarily active and present; the question might be ‘to lurk or not to lurk’, but this affects your community status, not membership.


from Pocket

Just sharing a link to a favourite blog of mine; the quality of posts definitely makes up for their relative infrequency! The posts provide examples of the use of ethnography in libraries, and I find discussion surrounding the methodologies employed to be often extremely useful.

How I feel openly posting ‘academic’ work on Twitter

Just Pinned to Education and Digital Cultures: Pinterest: Chedsnehblogs ♡
That’s scary jumping, rather than anything else, just in case it isn’t clear. It was an ‘eeek moment’, a sort of worlds collide thing, because I use Twitter sometimes professionally but largely not these days… in any case, nothing bad happened!

Ethnography chat with Dan

I’ve been really impressed with the detail Dan has gone into on his netnography; it puts mine to shame in terms of many things but particularly the level of immersion achieved. But I thought I’d tweet specifically about the love letter/break-up letter methodology, because I’ve used it several times to get students’ feelings about things, though I’ve never written a proper one myself.

It’s got me thinking about the netnography methodologies that we’re all using; what I’ve chosen to do certainly doesn’t feel rigorous enough. I know this is a low-stakes exercise, but that doesn’t really let us off the hook as far as methodology development goes…

MOOC assumptions

In the small amount of UX and ethnographic work I’ve already done, I’ve learned the value of admitting and questioning the biases and assumptions we might naturally hold. So I’ve spent a little time this week, in preparation for the micro-ethnography, thinking about what I might assume about the participants on the course, and whether those assumptions are fair.

I’ve come up with three things:

a) they’re human

But maybe they’re not. I’ve seen The New Adventures of Superman, and I cannot therefore discount the concept of robotic investigative journalism.

b) they know what a MOOC is

Leaving aside any epistemological dilemmas about the nature of knowledge, I’m not sure this is true. How much determinism can we assume? Heaven knows what I’ve signed up to without knowing it. So, erm, let’s switch this to…

b, again) they’ve heard of MOOCs, or they’ve been told about them, or they’ve stumbled across them randomly on the internet

Which feels like a spectacularly unhelpful statement. Finally, I ended up with:

c) they have an email address

This is probably all I can assume with any certainty. They have access to a computer, and to the internet – but we can’t be sure about the level of that access. What they do have is an email address and – crucially – the relevant skill set to set that up, to enrol and participate.

Something from Scannable

Scannable Document on 24 Feb 2017, 10_53_23

February 24, 2017 at 10:53AM
Open in Evernote


I’ve been thinking this week about presence and absence, partly in response to a decision I made at the beginning of the week not to reveal myself as a researcher on the discussion board for my MOOC. This was for several reasons, but mainly that I sort of missed the boat:

(a) the discussion boards I’m predominantly looking at are historical (i.e. they’re two weeks old), so new posts would be missed

(b) there isn’t anywhere else obvious to me where a post like this would be seen; there is a ‘general’ board, but there are very, very few entries on it

Anyway, this quotation from Hine was caught me at just the right time while I was considering this and made me consider my own status and identity – in the MOOC setting, as a researcher – and the impact that might have. Today (two days later), as I sit having finished (but not yet posted) my artefact, I’m still wondering about this…

MOOC motivations

I’m a little overwhelmed by the number of participants on the course – there are hundreds of participant introduction posts, and though there’s very little conversation, I thought I’d do a micro-micro-ethnography on their motivations for taking the MOOC. I haven’t read all of the posts because it’d take hours, but there’s definitely a convergence in terms of the reasons why students admit to signing up for the MOOC.

Here they are. Not in any particular order.

1. I’m a lifelong learner: the phrase comes up fairly frequently, but it’s pretty clear that there are some people on the course who just like learning, and identify as a learner. They haven’t expressed the reason why they chose this particular MOOC, but their principal motivation is learning.

2. I wanted to try out an online course: “Warren Buffet [sic] likes online courses”, writes one person. These are people who are not necessarily confirmed learners, but they’re just testing the waters. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them assess their experiences later on.

3. I work in another industry, but I’m interested in investigative journalism: some people are just interested in the subject, though they’re in other professions or are happily employed in other areas; from what I can tell, they’re not nursing any ambition to switch professions, but journalism is a hobby or something that they find particularly fascinating.

4. I work in another industry, but something is happening in my country and I want to know how to report it: some participants are enrolled in the course in response to a particular problem in their communities, and they want to understand it, to learn how to write about it, and to disseminate what they’ve written.

5. I work in another industry, but I’m interested in becoming an investigative journalist: for some people, this is the first step in their career change to investigative journalism; some are ‘testing the water’, as it were; others are committed to this change, and would like the experience and knowledge.

6. I’m a journalist, and I want to enrich my understanding of my career: wanting to get better at investigative journalism is probably the most commonly cited reason on the introduction boards, and it’s probably the most simple to understand.

7. I’m a journalist, and I want to promote my work and writing: there are a few people openly promoting themselves, their blogs, their businesses; it’ll be interesting to see how (or if) they contribute to discussion where it is less appropriate to mention their twitter handle or link to their LinkedIn page.

8. I’m a journalist, and I’m looking for new collaborative projects: again, these people are openly there for the community, rather than for the content of the learning that they might do.

Slowing down?

I had another email from the course leader of the MOOC I’m doing, urging me to get cracking with the ethnography. She writes:

Am assuming the discussion boards will slow down so you may as well go for it now.

It doesn’t appear to be slowing in terms of content or chat, but it’ll be interesting to see if the course leader’s assumption comes true…

Busy, busy

Islands in the Lifestream – Week 4 summary

The anthropologist, Nancy Fried Foster, gave a presentation a couple of years ago to a small group at my institution. She talked about a variety of things but, as a manager, one of the things that stuck with me the most was about helping people cope with change. Her key message was that you need to allow and acknowledge a period of mourning. This pretty much reflects the main theme of my lifestream this week: a definite absence of content, ensuing from the transition from cybercultures to community cultures.

This transitory, momentary grief – a result of this change in focus – accounts for the lack of a richness of detailed, conscientious grappling with key ideas in this theme, or those revealed in the core readings. It also accounts for the attempt at preparedness exhibited in the lifestream, tempered by a general sense of disorientation. I put together, for example, a short and desirous wishlist of things I’d like to read; I’ll add to this throughout the theme. I spent time picking a MOOC, and wrote up my reasons for my choice: something interesting enough for me, but with a clear eye on the ethnographic project which would be based on it. This resulted in me looking for something that I perceived might be emotive and evocative enough to generate cool and engaging ethnographic observations and conclusions. But there’s also been a sense of connectivism about what I’ve written: in a post about MOOCs and folksonomy, for example, I tried to orient some of the new ideas I’d encountered in the article by Stewart with another topic with which I was already familiar.

So it feels as though my lifestream this week has been a set of islands. The topography is the same, and the climate comparable. But the ferry schedule between the islands could do with improvement.

Queen Charlotte Sound New Zealand



Stewart, B. (2013). Massiveness+ openness= new literacies of participation? Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 228.
Image credit
CC-BY. Queen Charlotte Sound New Zealand, by Patarika, on Flickr.