Tag Archives: community

Week 12 summary…and finally

Back in the day the final news item used to be a light-hearted  piece about a skateboarding duck or similar.

Lionel the skateboarding duck – borrowed from http://cdn.images.express.co.uk

This isn’t going to be one of those…

So, what have I learned?

My biggest take-out from this course is summarised by these quotes:

"division of the social and the technological, and [...]the reduction of their complex entanglements to a clear relation of subordination" 
Bayne, S. (2014)
"...the MOOC as a complex entanglement of humans, educational institutions, technologies and geographies..."
Knox (2016)
"...the algorithm represents a much more complex relationship between humans and non-humans in education, pointing towards an increased entanglement of agencies..."
Knox (2015)

The field of education doesn’t exist in a bubble, isolated from everything else in the world.  Aspects of all three cultures we have studied (and more) have an impact on it, whether that’s in the way people perceive digital technology, how me might use it, or the negative effect its misuse might have.

cyberculture logo

At first I thought of cyber, community and algorithmic cultures as different eras, akin to the past, present and future.  My view now is that the three coexist, although one may be dominant in a particular situation.

I found the whole enhanced-human / android concept fascinating.  It’s clear that we’re already there in some respects. In the field I work in contact lenses, wave-guided laser eye surgery and digital hearing aids all have the potential to provide benefits that go beyond the restorative.

In my professional practice an awareness of our increasing entanglement with technology translates into treating technophiles and technophobes with equal care and regard.

Having gained an understanding of ethnography is very helpful.  Supporting an on-line community is a big aspect of my job and one I see as, potentially, the most rewarding.  One if the reasons I joined this MSc was to experience on-line learning as a student, so I now know I had ethnographic intentions from the outset.  I found Kozinets (2010) particularly helpful and comprehensive and I’ve already quoted from it on several occasions at work.

algorithm culture

“Making visible the invisible” will stay with me forever! It’s a great way to summarise the possibilities (and pitfalls) of analytics.  There was enough content to spark my interest and it’s a topic I will study further in the future.

The format is liberating, although being time-oppressed I found the loose structure tricky.

  • The first block was the most engaging and stimulating for me, I’d put this down to the greater sense of community created by the group activities.
  • The (deliberately?) fragmented communication in block 2 was a jarring contrast at first.
  • Block 3 merged into finalising the Lifestream and I didn’t have enough time to devote to both.

One other element I had to come to terms with was referencing non-academic sources.  I’ve resolved the mental conflict this caused me by looping back to ‘complex entanglements’ and realising that these sources (even fake news ones) have legitimacy in the context of digital cultures.

To Jeremy and James and my fellow students.

Incidentally the ‘…and finally’ news format lives on here!


Bayne, S. (2014) What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’? Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851

Knox, J. (2016) Posthumanism and the Massive Open Online Course: Contaminating the Subject of Global Education, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group

Knox, J. (2015). Algorithmic Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.). DOI 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_124-1

Week 7 Lifestream Summary

Last week I was desperately short of time and I’m still catching up with some of the secondary readings and videos from the Community Cultures block, as well as trying to find some time to engage with my fellow student’s end of block artefacts.

The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland

My main take-out from last week was definitely an appreciation for how much can be gained from observing an online community from within and the similarities between this and participant observation in the the ‘real world’ where the “researcher engaged in participant observation tries to learn what life is like for an ‘insider’ while remaining, inevitably, an ‘outsider’.” (Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide).

I also spent some time thinking about my work role and the Learning Community I manage, how much I’m the instigator of the ‘cultural norms’ (Kozinets, R.V. 2010) that exist within its discussion forums, how many of these ‘norms’ I’ve created for my own convenience and how much of this is simply an attempt to lead by example.

I was relieved to receive some positive feedback from Jeremy on my ethnography write up, as I was concerned that some of it was wide of the mark in terms of the way it should be presented.   Many description of ethnography call for ‘rich’ or ‘thick’ narrative; telling the story from arrival and first contact to becoming embedded in the community’s culture.  With so little community to comment on this was always going to be a difficult task.  However, I think the finished artefact ticks many of the boxes in this description of ‘How to do ethnography ‘Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing’

“An ethnographic report includes clear and thick description of research methodology, including of people who participated in the study and the experiences and processes observed during the study.” […] “The researchers prejudices and biases are also highlighted.”


Mack, N. et al (2005) Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide, Family Health International

Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online.

De Chesnay, M (2015), Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing, Chapter 5, Springer Publishing Company, LLC

TWEET: Ellen Isaacs Ethnography TED talk

This humorous and well presented talk provides some useful insights into they ways ethnography can improve understanding and identify opportunities.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it”

TWEET: What we’re learning from online education

“Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary”

This quote from NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman sets the scene for this TED talk from Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera.

The talk is relevant to both the community culture and algorithm cultures of this course.  From a community perspective Koller describes cultural norms in MOOCs that we have also seen develop during this course, including students asking  and answering each others questions and forming into smaller study groups of their own volition.

From an analytics  perspective Koller talks about the way massive open online courses have enabled turning “the study of human learning from a hypothesis driven mode to the data driven mode”.  Koller states that the data Coursera collects enables fundamental questions such as “what are good learning strategies versus ones that are not” to be examined.  She also talks about the personalisation that is possible by virtue of having large volumes of data available, making it easier to spot anomalies and address them with targeted guidance for students.

Interestingly she doesn’t see MOOCs making traditional universities  obsolete, but calls upon them to move away from the lecture based format and embrace active learning.

She finishes with a vision of the possibilities that online education brings for fundamental change in the world.

TWEET: Fixing higher education through technology

This article doesn’t reference Stewart, B., (2013) but the authors constructs some very similar arguments, focusing in particular on the part played by the media in constructing a view of MOOCs and constructing a contrasting view of the established educational establishment in Canada.  “Where professional magazines focus on the relationship between technology, higher education and profit, newspapers symbolically construct MOOCs as an easy fix for an allegedly inefficient and outdated higher education system.”

The discussion points at the end of this piece are worth reflecting on alongside the other block one readings for this course.  I think this point the author raises in particular summarises the way MOOCs are seen as arbiters of change (or at least portrayed as such by the media):

“Once MOOCs remove barriers to access, getting an education becomes an individual responsibility/ choice. When articulated with the utopian idea of the democratizing potential of digital technologies, this vision effectively leads to an individualized take on education aligned with a neoliberal vision of public goods. MOOCs become a symbol of an education system that looks more like a catalogue of products, allowing individuals to pick their favorites and build the ‘knowledge’ profile that best suits their needs.” Dumitrica, D. (2017)


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

Delia Dumitrica (2017): Fixing higher education through technology: Canadian media coverage of massive open online courses, Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2017.1278021

TWEET: Oxford University MOOC

Well this will be one to watch!  While I’d imagine that the faculty at Oxford are already embracing many of the new literacies that MOOCs have helped bring the the fore, I can’t help but think of the ‘old’ universities such as Oxford as being  more likely to have traditional approaches to pedagogy.

When I saw the announcement linked in the tweet above a description of the practices of new literacies from Lankshear and Knobel (2007) in Stewart (2013) sprung to mind:

The more a literacy practice privileges participation over publishing, distributed expertise over centralized expertise, collective intelligence over individual possessive intelligence, collaboration over individuated authorship, dispersion over scarcity, sharing over ownership, experimentation over “normalization,” innovation and evolution over stability and fixity, creative innovative rule breaking over generic purity and policing, relationship over information broadcast, and so on, the more we should regard it as a “new” literacy. 

I wonder how much Oxford’s first MOOC will embrace these practices…


Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2007). Sampling “the new” in new literacies.  In Stewart, B., (2013). Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Technology, 9(2), pp.228–238.

How do ‘how to’ guides compare to Kozinets (2010)

The ‘netnography’ exercise demonstrated a method of understanding an online community by observing it as an active participant.  This in turn provides some insights into what appear to build communities (and what doesn’t).

In my professional practice I support an online community so this exercise has been useful in giving me a framework to study it.  From a purely practical standpoint I was also interested to find out what literature existed around how to establish and build a community from scratch.  There are numerous guide books available and many are of the ‘how I made my fortune / get rich quick variety”, but there are others that appear to be grounded in research and I was interested to see how well this mapped to the Kozinets (2010) chapter.  This Thinglink  shows that a particular example I selected at random maps well to Kozinets’ findings and other literature referenced in the chapter.  For some reason the Thinglink refuses to embed in this post so I’ve provided a link instead.



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

Nuggets from Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009)

The amount and diversity of the information in this core reading defied my preferred method of deconstruction into a Mindmap format.  Instead I have cherry-picked paragraphs and sentences that I felt were key the community culture topic.

“Understanding the self as a networked presence has almost become a commonplace – consciousness is increasingly understood as an ‘assemblage’ in which technologically mediated communications systems are as much part of our consciousness as ‘nature’ or the body.”

“Williams identifies three forms of communication technology: the amplificatory, that allows the spread of speech over distance; the durative, that allows its storage; and the alternative which is made up of the use of signs – that is, methods alternative to the use of speech to convey meaning (e.g. writing, graphics etc.) (Williams 1980: 55–57)”

“Williams argued that the amplificatory and durative
aspects of media (the ability to broadcast and to store material) due to their dependence on capital investment, were much less readily available outside of the control of the state and industry (Williams 1974). In fact it has been these elements which have become more widely available.”

“…the expression of the ideology of neo-liberalism has been that you can do what you want with the networks available on condition that you can pay for access and use.”

“The idea of Web 2.0 is that a particular assemblage of software, hardware and sociality have brought about ‘the widespread sense
that there’s something qualitatively different about today’s web’ (O’Reilly 2005a). This shift is allegedly characterised by co creativity, participation and openness, represented by softwares that support, for example, wiki based ways of creating and accessing knowledge, social networking sites, blogging, tagging and ‘mash ups’. O’Reilly envisions the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 as a series of technological shifts and new practices in his influential article.”

The shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.
The shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. From Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009) “Chapter 3. Networks, users and economics” from Martin Lister … [et al.], New media: a critical introduction p204, London: Routledge
Quoting O’Reilly, T. (2005) “‘users add value’, we will enhance the service through the traces of ourselves that we leave behind when we add data to the service. These effects should be designed into the experience ‘by default’; most of us will not want to actively add data but just by using a site information can be collected, as a side effect of our use of the application.”

“Pierre Lévy’s influential Utopian writing on collective intelligence (1997), in which he asserts that ‘networks promote the construction of intelligent communities in which our social and
cognitive potential can be mutually developed and enhanced’ (1997: 17). This notion reflects the enthusiasms of early cybertheorists and can also be seen to be very influential in the work of Henry Jenkins (2002) and Jane McGonigal (2007).”

“Operations like Wikipedia, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Technorati and Digg are the poster stars for the new media era of user generated content when we will all be enjoined to be creatives in order to have a voice, a place and space in the new knowledge based digital economies.”

“Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales forecasts ‘It’s going to be a part of everyday life – creating and sharing media will be a thing that normal people will do all the time, every day, and it doesn’t seem strange.’ Matt Mullenweg of blog engine WordPress observes ‘Now you see people with no technical ability creating really amazing sites reaching audiences they would never have imagined reaching’”

“Here the technology becomes invisible in the new era of technologically mediated self expression. Content will be delivered by us, by ‘people who don’t have technical skills’, ‘by people with no technical ability’. As usual technophilia strives to make techniques, technologies and interfaces invisible, that is to say the actual flesh/computer interface somehow becomes a transparent two-way membrane rather than an experience structured through scarce resources, economics and power.” [Bold added by me]

“John Perry Barlow, […] pointed out there are
many differences between such communications and belonging to a community. There was a lack of diversity of age, ethnicity and social class. The communication was disembodied, manufactured, inorganic. The group has no common bonds of shared adversity.”

“In thinking about the meaning of new forms of online communication scholars have used this analytic triad of common relationships, shared values and shared spaces through which to begin to define online community.”

“If it is assumed that discourse shapes social reality then particular discursive practices shared by a group may be said to construct a social reality and that reality, it can be argued, would constitute a community.”

“Within this model, it is therefore possible to argue that one indicator of community might be common discursive practices represented in textual norms and behaviours.” (e.g. abbreviations, use of emoticons etc.)

“Boyd and Ellison highlight the most significant and popular areas of research into SNS as:

  • Impression Management and Friendship Performance i.e. how we ‘manage’ our self presentation online
  • Bridging Online and Offline Social Networks i.e. investigating the relationships between IRL and online communities
  • Networks and Network Structure i.e. using data from SNS to map or visualise the dynamics of network based communications
  • Privacy i.e. availability of SNS data for other uses in marketing or consumer surveillance; linked to other research on trust, the reliability of SNS information and the safety of users.”

“…in the rhetoric of Web 2.0 public sphere participation via the web and self commodification through voluntary surveillance are one and the same thing.”

“As a ‘public’ communicative space the Internet does indeed appear to offer highly specific and limited engagements – whatever your politics, whatever your fetish, a corresponding website and ‘sense of community’ can be found online.”

“As audiences have become ‘users’ and user-generated content has started to become a real competitor to traditional media the impact of the Internet on traditional media institutions is stronger than even Poster and Kellner above might have predicted ten years ago.”

“This incursion of the ‘ordinary person’ into the bastions of media privilege is experienced as both opportunity and threat by the industries themselves and has been understood by academic researchers primarily through the history of active audience studies.”

“The new technologies broke down old barriers between media consumption and media production. The old rhetoric of opposition and cooptation assumed a world where consumers had little direct power to shape media content and where there were enormous barriers to entry into the marketplace, whereas the new digital environment expands their power to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media products.”
(Jenkins 2002)  [NP: Should we now add ‘disrupt’ and ‘subvert’ to this list]

TWEET: attractive distractions

Joking aside, the pressure on learners is something I’m constantly aware of in my professional practice.  While we try to promote a culture that is based on life-long learning and development, the reality is that the commercial need to look after our customers and patients will always take precedence.   I believe that’s the reason the current trend toward ‘micro-learning’,  spaced learning and video are gaining so much traction in the corporate environment.