Lifestream, Evernote

On the important differences between literacies, skills and competencies.

edc17, metal-level process, literacies February 12, 2017 at 08:01PM

Following my reading of Stewart (2013), I wanted to explore the idea of literacy/literacies involving meta-level processes.

In the linked weblog post (the same one that Stewart referred to in her article), Belshaw expands on the idea of meta-level processes:

The important point to make here is that whilst competencies can be seen as ‘bundles of skills’, literacies cannot. You cannot become literate merely through skill acquisition – there are meta-level processes also required. To be literate requires an awareness that you are, indeed, literate.

That sounds a little weird, but it makes sense if you think it through. You may be unexpectedly competent in a given situation (because you have disparate skills you have pulled together for the first time). But I’m yet to be convinced that you could be unexpectedly literate in a given situation.

I need to think some more on this. I’m wondering about emergent literacy: generally we describe people as either literate or illiterate, but what is the tipping point? Generally, I sit in the “literacies as social practices” camp, so I support the notion that ‘being digitally literate is a condition of being able to make meaning as a social practice… via interaction with mediating technologies’ (Stewart, p. 232). However, Stewart adds ‘as a social practice and at a meta-level’ (my emphasis).

In order to make meaning of/with texts, do I need to be aware I’m making meaning? I guess you do. In the case of my visual artefact, I had doubts that anyone would be able to recognise what I was attempting to communicate, and hence felt ‘illiterate’ with that means of communication

Lifestream, Tweets

Chenée raises one of the challenges of being a virtual ethnographer, which is ensuring an appropriate level of engagement. In her chapter ‘Virtual Ethnography’ in the SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods (2008), Hine discusses the tension between being observing unobtrusively (lurking) and participating. The former -while creating ethical concerns- has the advantage of not disturbing or changing the observed community, but it has been questioned whether lurking gives the level of engagement necessary to ‘develop in-depth understanding’ (Hines, 2008).

With regard to the study mentioned in the Tweet (also from Hines, 2008):

Baym carried out her ethnographic work as an active member of the group in which she was at first a full participant before adopting it as an ethnographic field site. As an ethnographer, she conducted online interviews and surveys, carried out textual analysis of threads of discussion, and was also informed by in-depth knowledge of the soap opera that participants in the group discussed.

In another chapter, ‘Virtual Ethnography: Modes, Varieties, Affordances’, in tThe SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods (2008), Hines reveals that Baym observed the group of soap opera fans for 3 years.. considerably longer than our mini-netnography for Education and Digital Cultures! Clearly, the understanding gained over a two-week period will be considerably less deep, however, questions regarding presence and level of participation persist. Both moving from either being a lurker or active participant to being a known observer, and managing self-presentation when both an ethnographer and a participant will be ‘tricky’, to say the least!

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Description: Christine Hine recommends that ethnographers focus on the embedded, embodied and everyday Internet. Pic by dannymol on Flickr, CC BY 3.0
By Renha
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In Ethnography for the Internet embedded, embodied and everyday (2015) Christine Hine reflects (pp. 32-33):

Three particular aspects of the contemporary Internet experience have repeatedly struck me as especially challenging to the development of ethnographic strategies. For development of an ethnographic strategy for the Internet, it has seemed particularly significant that it is embedded in various contextualizing frameworks, institutions, and devices, that the experience of using it is embodied and hence highly personal and that it is everyday , often treated as an unremarkable and mundane infrastructure rather than something that people talk about in itself unless something significant goes wrong. These three “Es”—for shorthand purposes, the E3 Internet— provided a backdrop for thinking about why it is difficult to apply ethnographic principles to the contemporary Internet, and how we might do so successfully.


 Hines brings to my attention that a virtual ethnographer has the choice of adopting an embedded, embodied and everyday (E3) perspective or a cyberspatial perspective, wherein the online space is viewed as more self-contained. For the purpose of my upcoming mini-virtual ethnography, a cyberspatial approach seems most apt, in part due to the scale – I also need to narrow my research question so that it fits within this perspective.

Hines, C. (2015). Ethnography for the Internet: Embedded, Embodied and Everyday. Bloomsbury Publishing [e-book]. Retrieved from