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.


2 Replies to “Week 4 Summary”

  1. Useful summary here Renée. It seems that your research around the task of conducting the micro-ethnography has featured quite a bit in this week. It is definitely a good thing to think through the method – and you’ve picked up on really important ethical issues. I think it is important that we think about ethics as part of the entire practice of research – it is much more than anonymity! You are picking up on important methodological aspects here that bridge ethics and practice: announcing oneself as a researcher, and deciding on appropriate distance. These are practices that both allow an ethnography to function and constrain the kind of relationships one can experience and document. There is a limit to our engagement with a lot of this methodological detail around participant observation, but hopefully you’ll get enough of a taste!

    Interesting to see you pursuing Stewarts scholarship once again. It could be that a MOOC related to more of the connectivist traditional might serve you well in this micro-ethnographic task? Something that allows you to experience ‘digital scholarship’ community practices perhaps?

    1. Hi Jeremy
      “I think it is important that we think about ethics as part of the entire practice of research – it is much more than anonymity!” – absolutely. I think anonymity was particularly strong in my conversation this week because of a conversation I had about medical data, and the wide-reaching potential consequences of failure to anonymise this in research. It is just one area of concern, as you highlight.
      With regard to the micro-ethnography and the MOOC, you’re right in that I would be interested in pursuing a connectivist MOOC. I did try to get involved with open ds106 – but because it is not time bound, and others are at a completely different point in it I found it quite a fragmented experience which was a little alienating. The site for open ds106 suggests there is value in doing it with a group, and Alan Levine notes: ‘I still think there is more power in people doing the same work in parallel, the network reinforcement effect.’ While I think it is possible to get a lot out of the course while doing it individually, I feel that it would take longer than 2 weeks to break into any real sense of community. Because of that (whilst acknowledging I could be wrong), I’m leaving ds106 for now, and focusing on a timebound MOOC. I’m definitely interested in returning to ds106 at a later point though.

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