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James Robson - Digital and Online Ethnography

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James Robson - Digital and Online Ethnography

  1. 1. Digital and Online Ethnography James Robson
  2. 2. Being a teacher in the digital age: a digital ethnography of religious education teachers’ engagement in online social spaces
  3. 3. Research Questions Aim: To investigate the meanings, related to their professional lives and identities, that Religious Education (RE) teachers derive from their engagement in online social spaces. How are RE teachers’ professional identities performed through their engagement in online social spaces? How are RE teachers professional identities constructed through their engagement in online social spaces? How is the engagement of RE teachers in online social spaces influenced by power structures and the agendas of related institutions, organizations, stakeholders and interest groups?
  4. 4. Ethnography Now embedded in academic culture as an appropriate method of exploring the ways in which people use, interact, engage and construct meanings on the Internet (Hine, 2008:260) Examination of use in a natural setting. A method that valued users’ own perspectives and the meanings they derived from their online engagement. Enabling the researcher to place that within the context of wider social and professional structures and academic theory.
  5. 5. Ethnography of online contexts Debate over how ethnography should be undertaken in relation to online social spaces. Novel methodology (virtual ethnography, netnography) vs an extension of traditional anthropological approach (Digital ethnography)
  6. 6. Field Boundaries: Online vs Offline Early studies focused solely on online communities (Markham, 1998; Baym, 2000). But the Internet is rarely a separate domain of virtual experience (Miller and Slater, 2000). Sharp dichotomous distinctions should be avoided between online and offline (Horst, 2012). The Internet and offline worlds are mutually related, intersecting contexts. Internet research takes place in embedded contexts (Bruckman, 2002). Therefore including offline contexts improves understanding of phenomena within their ethnographic context and add credibility to research findings.
  7. 7. Field as Multi-sited A network of intersecting online and offline sites (Marcus, 1995; Wittel, 2000) A primary online site, with a wider field conceptualized, linking other online spaces and offline ones (Orgad, 2006)
  8. 8. Digital Ethnography to me I prefer the term digital ethnography as it avoids some of the context specific connotations of more loaded terms: netnography, virtual ethnography etc. An extension of traditional anthropological ethnography flexibly extending methods to fit changing contexts rather than something novel. Focused on online contexts, but conceptualizing the wider field as including other online and offline sites.
  9. 9. Defining the Field TES RE Forum NATRE Facebook Page Save RE Facebook Group Offline sites (if not actually studied to be related to primary field site when conceptually mapping the field) – classrooms, schools, conferences, homes etc.
  10. 10. Entering the Field Getting passed the gate keepers  Started lurking  Commercial interests in the project Ongoing negotiations with the community  Reminder posts; establishing ID as a researcher through questionnaires etc.  Using websites/ blogs to communicate with participants
  11. 11.  How much to participate  Possibility of covert research online  Participation risks influencing the nature, ethos or culture of field site  It risks loss of analytical clarity/ going native  But  Deepen experiences of sites  Test concepts through direct experience  Expose oneself to critique  Ethical issues  Peripheral-member researcher (DeWalt and DeWalt, 2002) – overt presence, but maintaining sense of being an outsider Data Collection Methods: Participant Observation
  12. 12. Data Collection Methods: Participant Observation A year in the field: September 2011 – September 2012 Observing and participating in the spaces on a daily basis for a year: reading posts, responding to posts, starting threads, asking questions, privately messaging users, forging contacts etc. Checked three times a day (9:30am, 1pm, 8pm), using desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone. Date as: fieldnotes, analyzable text (three 8 week long samples), descriptive statistics
  13. 13. Data Collection: Interviews  Semi-structured online and offline narrative interviews, rooted in both ethnographic contexts.  Modified life history approach  Start online focused on people’s often rehearsed life stories, co- constructing narratives that are jointly analysed and interrogated with time and space for analytical insights to emerge.  Moved offline where participants can be more spontaneous and vulnerable.  Builds trust, aids transition between ethnographic contexts, links online and offline field sites  Participants were recruited online, linked with observations, through open calls or were specifically targeted. (8,7,5)
  14. 14. Other Sources of Data Questionnaires Conference attendance as a participant observer Analysis of ‘grey literature’: main media outlets; opinion pieces, political and educational blogs; Twitter Elite interviews: NATRE executive committee; chair of REC; Chair of REC PR sub-committee; Chair of NASACRE; RE consultants and teacher trainers etc.
  15. 15. Analysis Not necessarily a distinct stage of the research process: embodied in the ethnographer throughout fieldwork informing recruitment, interviews and direction of fieldwork. Data holistically analysed using Miles and Huberman three main analytical steps: data reduction, data display, drawing and verifying conclusion. Nvivo, iAnnotate, Word Outline display
  16. 16. Group Task Look at an online group/ community/ social space and discuss: What research questions you might ask/ what aspects of that community would you study? What data would you gather and what data collection methods would you use? What ethical issues might you encounter? What can you tell about the community – what is its social structure, what hierarchies exist, where are the power relations etc?
  17. 17. Suggested communities Wranglerstar YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMIjEnXruVHtvgSVf6TgfUg Homebrew Forum: http://www.thehomebrewforum.co.uk/ Mudcat forum: http://mudcat.org/