Ehtnography – YouTube Mark Rothko

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Proposed ethnography

I have been researching the online environment looking for a suitable topic for my internet ethnography and decided on a YouTube media artifact entitled  ’Simon Shama’s Power of Art – Rothko (part 1-7).

I hope the study will give me a foundation for considering my future dissertation on the topic of aesthetic experiences in online spaces, as well a better understanding of the scope of virtual ethnography.

I have checked the potential ethical considerations involved and I am satisfied that there are no special issues involved.

I have not yet decided on the platform for presenting the ethnography, nor the time line.

My draft proposal for the ethnography is as follows:

I will draw observations with regards to

  1. the technical aspects of how the YouTube platform is accessed
  2. issues around the identity of the users
  3. the range of topics they are addressing
  4. the reflection on Rothko as an artist
  5. reflections on any topics other than Rothko as an artist
  6. the level of online community or subculture development

I will

  1. research a suitable platform for presenting my findings.
  2. consider how to present the ‘work in progress’  in a timeline



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Hine’s paradox

Folding back ideas about the constructed nature of knowledge on to ethnography itself poses an interesting paradox: ethnographic knowledge too might be a cultural construct. (C. Hine, 2000, p. 55)

I find this argument odd. How can ethnography not be a cultural object. How can ethnography be an objective and factual portrayal?


How dealing with this?

  1. compare member understandings of culture alongside the ethnograpgher’s
  2. focus on the ethnographer’s perspective, giving differences in interpretations
  3. epistemological correctness… it’s all constructed anyway….
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The ethnographer is not simply a voyeur or a disengaged observer, but is also to some extent a participant,sharing some of the concerns, emotions and commitments of the research subjects (C. Hine, 2000, p47)
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Michela Clari (a Flick’r ethnography)

I was particularly taken by Michela’s chapter and how she approached her ethnography (Library of Congress’ collection of Abraham Lincoln portraits)

In particular, her questions with regards to my potential study are worth considering in the task ahead:

1. Is this a good place to study given the overall cultural themes we are tackling?
2. Can the individuals we see interacting here be described as a culture-sharing group?
3. What might be the main themes emerging from the investigation of this group and how does one go about identifying them?
4. What level of involvement is to be justifiably expected of the researcher? How will the participants’ perspective be given an appropriate voice? What are the ethical
issues at stake?
5. How does the personal experience of the researcher come to bear on the analysis and the proposed interpretation?
6. How transferable to different sites is an approach which might work here?

In addition:

As a passing visitor after the (media) event, all areas of ‘activity’ struck me as useful –i.e. exchanges about the picture, about the tools, about the purpose of it all – and gave me pause for thought as I found myself looking at the picture in different ways, sharing in some of the notes-related irritation, and reflecting on rights and duties of participants (to conclude, for my part, that no one should really tell others ‘how to do thing’). Interestingly, Rose (2007, p 23) suggests that the social is perhaps the most important modality for understanding the audiencing of images: the ‘meta-discussion’ on the purpose of the place, on ways of making things work better and on what participants do or not do, definitely heightens the experience of coming into contact with the photograph. For sure, the experience here feels very different from one of staring at a picture on a museum wall, or just admiring it on the Library website: something else is happening, something that engages all concerned, observers like me included, and prompts the asking of new and different questions.

in addition, Clari  mentions the ‘metaphor of the stage’:

Returning to the theatrical metaphor I touched on earlier, this environment strikes me as fitting in well with the idea of a stage: like a stage this place very much exists and can be traced through an address – its url; like a stage, however, it is also an invention, and as such potentially temporary, created by a designer to enable a performance: as Hine says, the production of a web page ‘is made meaningful primarily through the imagining of an audience and the seeking of recognition from that audience’ (2000, p 136).

I believe the conditions surrounding creating dialogue (textual and visual), as well as the role of metaphors will play an important part in how we perceive aesthetic expereinces.

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