Week 6 Summary – Conducting an Ethnography

Some suggestions for studying an ethnography – Click on the image

Christine Hine argues that ethnography is ‘a methodology that offers little in the way of prescription to its practitioners and has no formula for judging the accuracy of its results’ (Hine, 2000, 3). To someone such as myself, having never carried out an ethnographic study before, these words are not particularly reassuring. However, as I have been working towards the completion of my digital ethnography, I have been buoyed by the abundant presence of online advice regarding the skills, motivations and qualities required to conduct a study of this nature. Consequently, this week’s lifestream blog has mostly crystallised around these pockets of guidance. ‘How to do Ethnography’ by the Visual Communicating Guy (VCG) was particularly useful in how it established eight clear steps in conducting ethnographic research. Although, as the scope of our digital ethnography is limited and small-scale, some of those steps (e.g. Step 6 &7) are not pertinent. The YouTube video of Professor Sienna Craig, outlining the ethical considerations was also very helpful in establishing some of  the ethical parameters that I should be considering, as I continue to observe and be a part of my online community.

However, it was the YouTube videos by Robert Kozinets and Daniel Miller that were most pivotal in helping to bridge the gap between the ethnographic aspect of the study and the world of digital education. As Miller states the study of anthropology, in its desire to understand people, is essentially the most appropriate crucible for understanding the world of digital.

References
Hine, C. (2000) The virtual objects of ethnography, in Hine, C. Virtual Ethnography, pp. 41 – 66, London: Sage

Liked on YouTube: Digital Anthropology Daniel Miller

This YouTube clip was excellent! It really helped me to contextualise the relationship between ethnography and the digital studies. Leading anthropologist Daniel Miller, from University College London,  says ‘the very best way of way of understanding the digital in as much as when we talk about the digital, clearly we’ve got to be interested in the consequences that it has for people” and “that is really why this is the right domain for anthropology.”

 

Week 5 Summary – Liberating MOOCs, redefining education

As I delved further into the study of my chosen MOOC, my social media postings in the life stream reflected a growing curiosity in the possibility that massive open learning of this nature, is potentially offering a new route to formal academic certification. Indeed, with this shift in paradigm Bayne et. al (2019) argue that “the open education movement has predominantly framed its mission in terms of ‘freedom from’, characterising educational institutions as rigid, antiquated, inaccessible and ultimately ‘closed’, in opposition to which the open movement is cast as a disruptive liberation”. (Bayne et al, 2019, 50) This has congruence with the TEDx YouTube talk by Jonathan Schaeffer, who discusses the disruptive nature that MOOCs have on traditional learning in tertiary education, and examines the manner in which this routeway to formal education could be actualised.

This question of ‘disruptive liberation’ is further examined in the BBC Sounds podcasts by asking ‘could these new free online courses open higher education to parts of the world in a way that’s been unthinkable up until now or are MOOCs an experiment that could destroy centuries of tradition?’ In the second of the two podcasts – Measuring MOOCS by Science AAAS, quantifiable measures are shared to demonstrate how disrupting and liberating, MOOCs can actually be. By sharing some of the enrolments figures of the popular Introduction to Computer Science MOOC at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (an impressive 350k), it is possible to understand the power that the MOOCs have in creating ‘freedom from’ the traditional institution.

 

References
Bayne, S., Evans, P., Ewins, R., Knox, J., Lamb, J., Macleod, H., O’Shea, C., Ross, J., Sheail, P., Sinclair, C. (2019 DRAFT). The Manifesto for Teaching Online.

BBC Sounds: The Documentary: MOOCs

BBC Sounds Podcast: Click to access podcast

Some key takeaways from the podcast:-

“Could these new free online university courses open higher education up to parts of the world in a way that’s been unthinkable up until now, or are MOOCs an experiment that could destroy centuries of tradition?”

Amazing fact – at Harvard more people have signed up to its MOOCs than have graduated in its 300 year history!!

Comment on Block 1 – Cybercultures visual artefact #MSCEDC https://t.co/WRDuiYR03A by Valerian

This was great Brian and watching it again I cannot help but be reminded of the ways technology can be used in so many ways, both for the benefit of others or to enhance bodies and make them ‘super’. Your montage was very well executed and the choice of music and font worked extremely well. Like any other ‘development’, good or bad intentions are in the minds of whoever wields them and there is no use ‘blaming’ technology.

source https://edc20.education.ed.ac.uk/bkerr/2020/02/01/block-1-cybercultures-visual-artefact-mscedc-https-t-co-wrduiyr03a/#comment-23

Comment on ‘Val Muscat’s EDC Lifestream’ by vmuscat

Comments on Val’s Visual Artefact

I was really impressed by this and I think you have shown the juxtaposition of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ spaces within education very well. I would posit that, even in today’s 21st century classrooms, there are still significant numbers of educators who would be far more at home sitting on the left-hand desk, than that of the one of the right. I can immediately think of a handful of individuals in my own institution who would fall into this category – the proud Luddites, digital laggards and techno-sceptics, who resist, bemoan and detract at even this tiniest suggestion of technological advancement within their teaching practice.

However, your image could also represent the theme of digital divides that exists in technology enhanced learning, and this is one of the key themes explored in the Digital Education in a Global Context module. It considers how there are deep regional and global divisions in the way in which technology is accessed and utilised for education – the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and all those in between. It also examines how, as technology advances, there comes rapidly changing cultural norms, and discusses how the need to keep apace with those norms creates a high degree of friction amongst educators and their students. I wonder how many learning spaces and educators around the world are sitting comfortably on the right hand desk? Very thought provoking 😊

https://www.thinglink.com/scene/1279856915081330690

Ewins, R. (2019) White Paper in Digital Divides, from Digital Education in a Global Context module.

Comment on ‘Charles’s EDC Lifestream’ by cboyle

Comments on Charles’s Visual Artefact

Hi Charles,

Thank you for your beautiful pictures. I have been to Budapest many times, and I have an apartment just near Heroes Sq, so it holds a very special place in my heart.

As a teacher of secondary history, your quotation had real poignancy for me, as it is something I often proclaim to my students, particularly when teaching certain topics that show humans making the same mistakes over (WW1 followed by WW2, African slavery in America followed by the Jim Crow etc). It also brought me in mind of similar quotation from German philosopher Georg Hegel who said ‘We learn from history, that we do not learn from history’.
I would echo what Jeremy has said about how this applies to digital education, in that it seems that there are we are perhaps repackaging the same thing and delivering it over and over again with a nothing more than a rebrand.

I would also extend those comments to education on a wider scale. Every few years teachers are promised paradigm shifts in educational practice through new delivery methods, pedagogies and approaches to learning. But speaking to older colleagues, these only engender a feeling of déjà vu, and a ‘been there, done that’ mentality.

But I wonder, does the ever-changing vernacular of digital education really matter? Surely, the rapidly evolving nature of technology is what is significant in making educational change. Where pedagogies and schools of thought can be cyclical, emerging technologies can only give an upward and onward trajectory to be truly transformative in education.

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana)

 

Comment on ‘Jon Jack’s EDC Lifestream’ by jjack

Great video Jon. At first, I thought this is what had really happened in the production of your visual artefact, so you had me going all the way to the end!

You say: ‘some techno evangelists will believe that all thing technical will enhance the experience regardless of how it’s used

I have known a few of these individuals in my time in education and they are difficult characters to manage. I used to know one head of school, who was such an ardent believer in the power of technology for pushing boundaries in education, that he brought in any technological development he came across. The only problem was that this done was indiscriminately and without due diligence, and resulted in a number of platforms and technologies working in direct competition to each other. The result was an ‘gordian knot’ of tech, that was difficult, and in some cases near impossible, to disentangle.

https://edc20.education.ed.ac.uk/jjack/2020/02/02/visual-artefact-week-3/

Comment on ‘Adrienne O’ Mahoney’s EDC Lifestream’ by amahoney

Comment on Adrienne’s Visual Artefact

Hi Adrienne. Thank you for sharing your visual artefact. ‘The cyborg is a feature of social reality, as well as science fiction.’ This theme has also had an impact on me, and has helped me to realign my understanding of what we mean by the term cyborgs. Prior to starting the course, I had little concept of the ‘social reality’ of cyborgs and had not fully considered the real world application of the terminology. The use of this quotation in your artefact had  poignancy for me.

However, I would challenge your assertion that popular culture still depicts female cyborgs as vulnerable. I would ask you to reconsider this by looking at the recent examples of the female Terminator (the TX) in Terminator 3 (2003), as well as the Seven of Nine character from Star Trek: Voyager series and more recently Star Trek: Picard (1997 – 2001, 2020). Both are represented through a strong and tenacious characterisation. Is there perhaps a wind of change, or are these anomalies in how the female cyborg is represented in popular culture?

https://media.heanet.ie/page/2be5a5d9a18d4b79908482d1cd8ff7aa

 

Comment on ‘Teaching @DigitalCultures’ by dyeats

Comments on Human Digital Screenome Memoir

A really great visual artefact here David. Thank you for sharing this. I had never heard of the Human Screenome Project before, but it certainly makes me consider its practical use and potential impact.

I recently delivered an assembly to our Year 10 students on the topic of ‘screen time’. As a prop in the assembly I shared the data from the app, Moment, on my iPhone, to visualises how much screen-time I had personally spent on my device over the 4 weeks prior. As it turned out, it was quite a lot and that didn’t include hours spent on my iPad, laptop or desktop etc. It was quite shocking actually!

I also couldn’t understand specifically what I had been doing over that time… It felt like a lot of ‘lost’ hours. So, something of this nature, which adds an extra layer of data on the specific patterns of online activity, would certainly have been useful. There is definitely a practical application that this type of data could generate for users.

That said, I don’t think I would have been so willing to share that visual data with my audience, and so privacy is definitely an issue to consider.

Thank you again for sharing this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se7L5zDVNPs&feature=youtu.be

Cybercultures Visual Artefact Feedback – In reply to dyeats #MSCEDC https://t.co/WRDuiYR03A by bkerr

In reply to dyeats

Thank you for your comments David.

Yes, I did see ‘Years and Years’ when it first screened. However, I was far more enticed to the programme by its socio-political storylines rather than its commentary on the development of technology. In fact, as the series progressed and the daughter went ever further down her transhumanist journey, I became increasingly frustrated as a viewer and felt that the show was deviating from what was a hard-hitting imagination of a (not-too-distant or implausible) dystopia created by Trumpian policy, Brexit Britain, the migrant crisis and a whole host of other ‘real-life’ contemporary issues. At the time, the transhuman storyline just didn’t ring quite true for me.

It’s odd how my perception of the show has changed since starting this course and I have delved more and more into scholarly analysis of transhumanism and posthumanism. Having re-evaluated the characterisation of the transhumanist daughter it is possible to see that her extropian ideals are actually widely mirrored by many youngsters today, and the idea of biohacking is gaining traction amongst younger people. The scene where the wonky cybernetic eye implant that had installed by back-street charlatans, may not be that far removed from the reality of our near future.

I think you also raise some interesting points here about the ownership of technology, and how there may tensions that could arise, particularly in terms of governmental/ corporate ownership, and how much control they could assert over posthumans. As Hayles states, ‘consider the six-million dollar man… As his name implies, the parts of the self are owned, but they are owned precisely because they were purchased, not because ownership is a natural condition”. She goes to onto say, “similarly, the presumption that there is agency, desire or will belonging to the self and clearly distinguished from the “wills of others” is undercut in the posthuman, for the posthuman’s collective heterogenous quality implies a distributed cognition located in disparate parts that may be in only tenuous communication with one another.” How will we be able to reconcile this dichotomy between self and ownership in a posthuman world? Certainly, within an educational context, there is already tremendous challenge in regards to ownership of technology and how it could/should be used for educational purposes. How much more difficulty and tension will schools and colleges face, when these issues are being discussed within a transhumanist/posthuman environment?

Hayles, K. (1999) ‘Towards embodied virtuality’, in How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics, pp 1 – 24, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

source https://edc20.education.ed.ac.uk/bkerr/2020/02/01/block-1-cybercultures-visual-artefact-mscedc-https-t-co-wrduiyr03a/#comment-19

Cybercultures Visual Artefact Feedback – In reply to jknox

In reply to jknox.

I think you raise a very interesting point here Jeremy. Much of what has been discussed in terms of technological enhancements to humans has been from a wider social perspective. If we look at the issue from a narrower point of view, viz. technological enhancement of school children, I ponder what impact transhumanism would have on our education systems.
Take for instance the most basic of the ‘real life’ enhancements from my video – the insertion of a data chip into the back of an individual’s hand. What educational opportunities would this avail, should schools and colleges insist on turning their students into an army of mini-cyborgs? There would certainly be many benefits from an administrative point of view; for example, schools would be able to undertake expedient and instantaneous attendance as children walk through the school gates, an essential part of their safeguarding procedures. In addition to this, cashless cafeterias would ensure the speedy distribution of lunches, and collate data on the types of food children are eating, with this being visible to both parents and teachers. Furthermore, this could form the basis for health-based discussions and schemes of work centred around real-life consumption data. An implanted chip that recorded biometric data from the child’s body in the same manner as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, would also be highly valuable for PE departments in devising personalised fitness plans and class setting according to physical ability. The list of educational benefits could go on….

However, the ethical concerns surrounding what is being suggested here are glaringly obvious, particularly in reference to privacy, and Orwellian oversight of young people. As such, to my mind, the acceptance of this type of technical enhancement within mainstream education is a non-starter, certainly for primary and secondary aged children. I cannot imagine any teacher, senior manager, head of school, or politician that would be able to put forward a convincing enough ‘educational’ argument that would supersede the ethical implications of doing such a thing. The educational arguments are strong but surely the ethical considerations will always win for the parents and children.

Cybercultures Visual Artefact Feedback: In reply to Crouchipuss

In reply to Crouchipuss.

Thank you so much for you comments. I’m glad you enjoyed my visual artefact.

Yes, I was trying to encapsulate the view being argued by Knox (2015), that digital education has “largely shifted away from the phase of cybercultures, towards the view of an educational world in which technology is more firmly embedded, but importantly subservient to its human users”. The dystopian image of cybercultures and cyborgs, that has been diffused to us through science fiction, is exactly that – fiction! Knox says the “next phase of education and digital cultures reveals a pacification and instrumentalism of technology for predefined social ends”. I had hoped for the artefact in the latter half of the video, was able to represent this change in how cybercultures can viewed and imagined in more positive ways.

I think you draw a very interesting parallel regarding how those who have altered the human form through technology, aside those who had done so through gender reassignment. I agree that both would certainly receive prejudice rooted in ‘otherism’ and in the belief that the individual has done something ‘unnatural’. However, I think that perhaps fear and hatred of the cyborg is fuelled more from a mistrust of technology, as well as the augmented abilities that a technological enhancement may provide to a human. So whilst there are some similarities in the prejudice, I don’t think its exactly the same.

 

Week 4 Summary – Choosing a MOOC and thinking about the digital ethnography

The term MOOC was first coined in 2008. Stanford University offered its first MOOC in 2012, entitlted ‘An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ and had over 160k individuals enrol, with 20, 000 passing the course.

Choosing a MOOC – perhaps easier said than done! After initially opting for ‘An Age of Sustainable Development‘ through edX, I soon discovered that the online community within this particular MOOC was significantly lacking in dialogue in the discussion forums. As an alternative I decided to enrol in Holocaust: The Final Solution with Coursera. As a teacher of secondary history I was keen to further my own professional understanding of this topic, in parralel with developing my digital ethnography for this task.

My lifestream additions this week have focused on the broader theme of online community and how this differs from a corporeal community, as well as the development of collective intelligence within wiki sites. A common thread throughout the blog entries has been how to make an online community successful, when there are so many challenges and road blocks that can hinder success. The power of anonymity, intangibility and falsification were all highlighted as potential barriers and points of tension. Some of these entries touched on what had been outlined in Lister (2009) who identified the difficulty in creating community online when ‘participants are there but not there, in touch but never touching, as deeply connected as they are profoundly alienated’ (Lister, 2009, 209). Mark Willis’ TEDx presentation however, provides ways in which real online community can be achieved. He posits that when the following four criteria are met – longevity, shared values, community management and trust – then the group can truly be deemed as ‘community’.

As I progress in the ethnographic study of this MOOC, I am keen to examine whether my chosen course meets Willis’ 4 point criteria for community culture, particularly with that of shared values.  This is further strengthened in Saadatdoost et al (2014) who states that “culture components include shared beliefs, values, perspectives and practices.” I am therefore hoping to investigate how far the participants in this MOOC share values, and if so, what are these? How much do these values provide cohesion within and across the discussion forums? Also, are there tensions that arise due to the presence of disparate, incompatible values? And if so, how are these tensions diffused? Lots of interesting questions to take with me, as I move forward with my chosen MOOC.

Lister, M. (2009) ‘Networks, users and economics’ in New media: a critical introduction, pp163 – 236, London: Routledge

Saadatdoost, R., Sim. A., Mittal, N., Jafarkarimi, H. & Mei Hee, J. (2014) ‘A netnography study of MOOC Community’, PACIS 2014 Proceedings. 116. http://aisel.aisnet.org/pacis2014/116.

Liked on YouTube: The Online Community-A New Paradigm: Mark Wills at TEDxSanLuisObispo

 

 

Lister (2009) attempts to define the meaning of ‘online community’ in the context of an environment where ‘the participants are there but not there, in touch but never touching, as deeply connected as they are profoundly alienated’ (Lister, 2009, 209). Thus, this poses a number of challenges, for definitively identifing ‘online community’

Mark Willis’ TEDx aims to show how he believes a real community can be  fostered within an online setting, by focusing attention on 4 criteria for success – longevity, shared values, community management and trust.

Lister, M. (2009) ‘Networks, users and economics’ in New media: a critical introduction, pp163 – 236, London: Routlede

 

 

 

 

Liked on YouTube: “Introduction to communities of practice,” (Wenger-Trayner, 2015)

Saadatdoost et. al posit that “cohesion in a MOOC community is brought about by the domain of doubts, questions, new knowledge, experiences and the community of learners who meet people around the world with similar interests” (Saadatdoost, 2014, abstract). They go on to discussion how this community of practice, as outlined in the clip, has largely been left undiscussed in reference to the study of MOOCs. Interestingly, this clip fails to provide MOOCs as exemplification of where community of practice could be revealed.

References 

Saadatdoost, Robab; Sim, Alex Tze Hiang; Mittal, Nitish; Jafarkarimi, Hosein; and Hee, Jee Mei, “A NETNOGRAPHY STUDY OF MOOC COMMUNITY” (2014). PACIS 2014 Proceedings. 116. http://aisel.aisnet.org/pacis2014/116

 

 

 

Week 3 Summary – Biohacking and Transhumanism

There are a growing number of Transhumanist socieities. Humanity + is one such organisation. It has over 6000 members in over 100 countries

This week my interest was piqued by the unusual practice of biohacking, and how this has contributed to the transhumanism discussion. Newton Lee, in The Transhumanist Handbook defines transhumanism as anyone that is “using science and technology to enhance or alter our body chemistry in order to stay healthy and be more in control of our lives.” (Lee, 2019, 5). The YouTube clips and tweets on biohacking from this week’s lifestream were certainly representative of this view, particularly in respect to the idea of greater control, which was predominant theme throughout most of the social media on this topic. As individuals merge their bodies with technology, ranging from RFID chips inserted into hands as a replacement to contactless debit cards, to more radical cases such as Tim Cannon’s (rather crude) forearm implant that records biometric data from his body, there was consensus amongst all biohackers – these experimental modifications had given them greater agency and control of their individual lives.

There is little doubt that biohacking is a growing trend, and the discussion on the BBC Sounds podcast, as well as the interviews with Michael Laufer and Eric Matzer from this week’s YouTube clips, supports this view.  However, many critics of biohacking argue that its growth will ultimately be limited to a niche subculture, and that the movement is unlikely to gain enough traction to became mainstream. Medical ethics and opposition on religious grounds will ultimately curb the movement and limit its potential to grow beyond the very curious.

Conversely, proponents of the movement claim that biohackers are extropians of human change and that by pushing these boundaries today, they are catalysing an inevitable movement towards posthumanism. However, this does raise some very important questions. If this transhumanist movement is an inevitability for the 21st century, what ethical issues must be considered as we progress down this road of human change? Should there be interventions to regulate the range of practices this encompasses and, if so, what should that regulation look like? And if this were to happen, how long will it take before we start to see the appearance of modification clinics on the high street, offering biohacker-esque body augmentations to a mainstream market? Biohackers would certainly argue that this will be sooner, rather than later.

References

  • Lee, N. (2019) ‘Brave New World of Transhumanism’ in The Transhumanism Handbook, Springer: Switzerland, p5.
  • ‘Transhumanism’ (10 February 2020) Wikipedia, available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism (Accessed: 10 February 2020)

A dystopian novel that imagines the opposite of Lee’s vision of ‘more control’. Instead it shows an oppressive, divided society, examing the possible winners and losers of human immortality. An easy read but it has some links to the themes we have explored in the cybercultures.

Newton Lee in The Transhumanism Handbook (2019) defines transhumanism as ‘using science and technology to enhance or alter our body chemistry in order to stay healthy, and be in more control of our lives’. This brought to mind the novel The Suicide Club https://t.co/fmrRZVN58P