week 8 summary

I’ve been struck by a few things this week in finalising my ethnography and [reading? viewing? interacting with?] other people’s.

First, I think most of us got a bit hung up on the definition of ‘community’ and whether the things we were studying were communities or not. I imagine that this was part of the learning, and so was no bad thing. Certainly I’ve got a broader concept of community now, and I think this will help with, e.g. concerns over whether students are properly ‘socialised’ before beginning to interact online…

This led to another interesting trope–that social connections can be ‘mediated’ by shared interests. Chantelle showed this well, for example: Person A (with interest in X) <--> Blog B about X <--> Person C (with interest in X). Even if neither comment, I think the idea that the blog has a large readership in itself affects how A and C will feel about reading a blog about something they have a personal stake in. This is stretching it a bit, but likewise if A commented, I think it would be the degree of C’s interest in X (and thus how often she looked at the blog, read the comments, etc.) rather than her desire to comment herself that would give her the sense of belonging.

I think this is also linked to the fluidity of online communities; i.e., just because A is only interested in X for a year, or a month, or three days, it doesn’t necessarily make her less of a community member…

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The Professors’ Big Stage

The first few paragraphs are especially of interest, suggesting the superstar academic. Is this a real cultural phenomenon or is it a bit more complicated…?

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#durbbu mini ethnography

Here is my mini ethnography on the twitter feed for the Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2013. I decided to use Storify as I was intrigued by the approbation of narrative style in ethnographies both in Hine (2000, p. 44) and in a chance email quoting Carolyn Ellis (The Ethnographic I, 2004) regarding autoethnography. Not to mention that it seemed to handle tweets well within a ‘story’ context!

One of the reasons that I chose this community was that it ticked all the boxes for an ethical analysis:

1) What ethical expectations are established by the venue?
Twitter is considered to be a very public forum. I have first determined that each tweet I quote was available without logging into twitter (e.g. via twubs or a search engine) before posting it.

2) Who are the subjects posters / authors / creators of the material and/or inter/actions under study?
All contributors were adults attending a professional event.

3) What are the initial ethical expectations/assumptions of the authors/subjects being studied?
Participants were not told that the twitter feed was private, nor were they cajoled into using it. Participants could set their own twitter preferences, or refrain from tweeting all together. Participants may not have been aware that the tweets at this hashtag were being aggregated on another site (twubs); this aggregation had been applied to the hashtag by a third party for at least two years before the event in question. However, for the purposes of this ethnography I only used tweets which appeared both in this public space and publicly on twitter.

4) What ethically significant risks does the research entail for the subject(s)?
The possible harm here is minimal. It is possible that a participant who did not understand how twitter works could have posted tweets that they did not wish to be public. However, this study does not significantly add to this risk, as the tweets were already public.