Lifestream, Evernote


E-tribalized Marketing?: The Strategic Implications of Virtual Communities of Consumption by Kozinets, Robert V. (1999)

edc17 February 13,


at 07:09PM

When reading Kozinets, Robert V. (1999), “E-Tribalized Marketing?: The Strategic Implications of Virtual Communities of Consumption,” European Management Journal, 17 (3), 252-264 (which I sought out because I wanted more information on the same reference from to McLuhan in Kozinets, 2010), I noticed a reference to McLuhan (1970):
“Networked computers empower people around the world as never before to disregard the limitations of geography and time, find another and gather together in groups based on a wide range of cultural and subcultural interests and social affiliations.” (p. 1)
At face value this seems like such a great idea. However, does this not reduce diversity within networks? At what cost? I’m thinking back to the earliest of days of #mscedc, in which discussion within the Twitersphere turned to self-segregation, and the risks of non-diverse networks, such as Sheehan’s ‘spiral of silence’ , in which  people are more less-likely to voice opinions they perceive to be minority in non-diverse communities. We also discussed how such a spiral might be amplified, and I raised questions about how social practices associated with social media might (such as seeking
‘likes’) lead to more self-segregation, further reducing diversity within networks.
The McLuhan (1970) reference from Kozinets goes further, however. It is not about social media, but all networked technologies. In recent reading of Stewart (2015), it was proposed that networks foster participatory culture. I don’t disagree with this, nor question that giving agency and involving diverse peoples in knowledge generation is positive. However, one has to ask if there is a connection between participatory culture and reduced network diversity. I’m not suggesting that such a connection would be inherent or unavoidable. However, given observations of tendencies towards reduced network diversity through self-segregation, it seems to me that it is possible that there is another (new) literacy, upon which integrated society is quite dependent: a willingness to not just cluster in affinity groups, but also build diverse networks, and hold civil conversations with those who hold different perspectives to us. 

Lifestream, Comment on Block 1 Visual Artefact by Renee Furner

This was really well executed, Nigel, thank you. For me, one aspect which stands out is that you are ‘business as usual’ at your screens, complete with business attire, as the post-apocalyptic scene plays out outside. It’s as though we have already entered the post-apocalyptic age, but life continues.. which is not something I’d disagree with.

from Comments for Nigel’s EDC blog

Week 4 Summary

In week 4 in Education and Digital Cultures we moved from cyberculture to community cultures, with a reading and preparation week for a micro-ethnography of community within a MOOC commencing in week 5 (today).

The site of much of my posting this week

Posts in my lifestream reflected concerns about how to conduct the micro-ethnography, with a youtube video by a student outlining how to conduct a netnography (Kozinets’ 2002 term for ethnography adapted to the study of online communities) and a video of Kozinets outlining a case study of a netnography for marketing purposes. The former video alluded to the need for caution when declaring your research intentions because it can affect community members willingness to participate. Yet, such a declaration is required ethically (followed up in a post linked to a slide-presentation by Kozinets on the ethics of netnography, and discussion of the risks of ‘decloaking’ anonymised data). The difficulty of declaring research intentions unveiled further concerns about what constitutes an appropriate distance between observer and subject within netnography, which was taken up in Twitter discussion [1, 2, 3] with Chenée Psaros and through reading articles by Hine (2008a, 2008b) and Gatson and Zweerink (2004). The difference between an E3 (Hine, 2015) and a cyberspatial approach to netnography was also briefly investigated.

The notion of community cultures was introduced lightheartedly through a suggestion to Eli Eappleby-Donald that we use Hypothesis to peer annotate web documents for the course, a Twitter shout-out to a friend for advice on what MOOC to focus on, and Timothy Leary’s 1994 prediction that human communication would be taken up by ‘interscreening’. This discussion was deepened through examination of the values, ethos and characteristics of MOOCs, sparked by reading of Stewart’s (2013) paper, and followed up with a youtube clip exploring her earlier (2010) research with McAuley, Siemens & Cormier. Another idea from Stewart’s (2013) paper, that networked learning such as MOOCs can foster the development of participatory cultures and new literacies was interrogated with a focus on what counts as literate with new literacies (and on how these literacies are developed), and the role of meta-level processes in literacy (Belshaw, 2012).

Finally, throughout the week there was discussion between course peers about our visual artefacts [1, 2, 3, 4], which I will continue to comment on this week.


Lifestream, Tweets

The May 5, 1958 edition of Arthur Radebaugh’s Sunday comic, Closer Than We Think, showed off the high-tech school of tomorrow. Source:

In her paper, ‘Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation’, Bonnie Stewart (2013) proposes that:

even if many models of MOOC reflect attempts by elite gatekeeping institutions and corporate interests to maintain control, market dominance, and the right to determine what counts as knowledge (Stewart, 2012), MOOCs may none the less serve as a Trojan horse for the sociocultural development of participatory perspectives and literacies (p. 229).

Stewart’s point is that even if a MOOC (or xMOOC) holds a view of scale that emphasizes return on investment through the number of course completers and privileges notions of information delivery/transmission over communication (p. 231), if there is a capacity for networking through some kind of chat system with user profiles, users can generate their own networks which enable and foster the development of participatory cultures with the ethos of new literacies (p. 229). For Stewart, it is this ability for learners to take control over their own learning, and to be involved as producers of knowledge within MOOCs (or indeed, through any networked learning) which makes digital education potentially transformational. Community culture is key, with the Internet viewed ‘not as a technology but as a medium of human engagement’ (p. 231).

It’s noteworthy that this participatory, community driven culture is absent from the 1958 prediction, and continues to be absent in many technology driven education ‘solutions’ marketed commercially. However, it the idea that access to participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006) is the opportunity offered to education through technology also raises some questions for me. Stewart suggests that MOOCs can help to proliferate the ethos of new literacies by exposing learners to participatory learning (p. 232) – which I don’t doubt – but how are these new literacies developed? Merely through exposure and practice? Learning involves both practice and reflection (see, for example, Downes, 2017 in Connectivism and Learning MOOC), and without an awareness of what it means to be literate (i.e. new literacies literate), I wonder how this reflection is fostered.

It could be that in this thinking I am just trapped in a cycle of thinking about literacies as threshold-based skills which need to be developed rather than as social practices (Stewart addresses this on p. 232 of the same paper), but I worry that more than exposure to new literacy practices such as generating, remixing and repurposing knowledge (new and existing) is required to create the condition of (new) literacy. Perhaps my fears are unfounded, and such literacies develop through acculturation into social practices.. but nonetheless such fears bear thinking about.





Lifestream, Tweets

More on the ethics of netnography. In this slide presentation, Kozinets highlights the difficulty of separating text and data from the person who generated it and asserts that, therefore, online research has to be considered research of human subjects rather than research of social space, and relevant ethical standards applied. Such considerations include attending to the possibility of ‘decloaking’ or ‘cracking’ anonymised data.

In conversation with my brother, who works in digital health research, over the last week, he suggested that a core problem is that many of the people involved in collecting data are unaware of how to crack anonymised data, and therefore underestimate the risk of this. Protecting privacy is complicated.