Micro Ethnography

For my MOOC I took The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture. I focused on the community and communication aspects, comparing the MOOC to fandom communities that center around superheroes.

There are two links below if the first one doesn’t work try the other. I apologize for their being two but I wasn’t sure if the first one would work for everyone.




9 thoughts on “Micro Ethnography”

  1. Very impressed by your close encounter with god. Wonder if the initial use of the lower-case “g” and then shift to “G” is significant? Just kidding. But the idea of yelling into the void is a vivid characterisation of MOOC behaviour. Really fitting.

    Why did you think the feeling of community from Wordle wasn’t sustainable? When we think about community we usually think of it as something that lasts. The Fandom community you describe seems like it has the potential to keep rolling and building over a long period of time. But I wonder if a short-lived event lie the wordle is still a community, or merely a gathering?

    I’m surprised that even a MOOC about superheroes and pop culture couldn’t engender more vibrant exchange. That really says something about how sterile the xMOOC model is.

    Very insightful, thanks for sharing your ethnography Monica!

    P.S. Not really related to ethnography but I came across this really eye-opening presentation about the computing potential of Powerpoint recently: https://youtu.be/_3loq22TxSc

    1. Hi! Thanks for looking at it!
      I didn’t think the Wordle was sustainable because they only did it once at the very beginning of the class. Maybe if they had done more over the course of the class it could have been sustainable.
      Yes, I also thought the course would have a better exchange and was very disappointed.
      Neat, thanks I’ll check it out!

  2. Dear Monica,
    Thanks so much for the slide show for your microethnography; very intersting that you chose to compare two similar but different communities, good idea!
    In one of your slides, you mentioned “people were yelling into a void just to see what happens. Oddly enough this yelling got the most feedback”.
    What kind of feedback did it get? In the MOOC I studied, people were getting frustrated too, with the lack of responses. One person wrote-” nobody is responding to my posts!! ” But everyone ignored him. I guess I could have stepped in there…

    You mentioned “In fandom communities, there is a feeling of exposure, what you are saying is watched but at the same time, what you are saying matters and effects others.” And “they are more inclined to try and build a lasting connection within the community, to be a member”.

    Yes I agree and I would add that because fans are passionate about the subject matter and this subject matter could be seen as the central consumption activity (Kozinets), then there is more of an incentive to get the communication right. “The greater the centrality of the consumption interest to the person, the higher the interest level and concomitant level of activity knowledge and skill. “
    I think it was David that mentioned the ‘self-determination theory’. Where people are motivated from within, by interests, curiosity, or values. These intrinsic motivations are not necessarily externally rewarded or supported, but nonetheless they can sustain passions, creativity, and sustained efforts.

    1. Hi!
      So, the person who yelled into the void was the post about God. The one that I posted a pic of “I am god!” and the response he got was the one below I mentioned, “Would that we could all be paying attention when God illuminates us.”
      I agree I thought that the subject of the MOOC would attract people who are passionate about it. And it did, they just didn’t talk to each other.

  3. Brilliant artefact, Monica, and fascinating and insightful points!

    > ‘There is a sense of speaking to a void when you post…”yelling” got the most feedback’

    Such an interesting observation on the inclusions/exclusions that we so often see, even in spaces advertised as ‘open’! Brings me back to a tweet from Stephen Downes – ‘lurking is a legitimate and valued form of participation’…


    …it’s also an issue I’ve often heard from teachers in face-to-face settings, where the ‘quiet’ students often produce fantastic work and shouldn’t be ignored!

    Really enjoyed it and very well presented – thank you!

  4. Great presentation Monica. Your comparison of two separate communities was illuminating especially since it questions what makes online communities bond or fall apart. Equally interesting is your comment towards the end where you question your involvement in the class and how this would change if at least a single participant made an effort to form a community. It would make a very interesting study to see what motivates communities to prevail. Is a silent community a community?

    Thank you for the though-provoking artefact, Monica. It has given me much food for thought.

  5. As you might guess, I love comic books 🙂 Superhero ones of the “underpants on the outside” type a bit less so (DC Vertigo have always been my favourite titles).

    Something that a lot of people comment on in the comic book fandom is that there are undercurrents that can be quite toxic. The whole “you’re not a real fan of this character/writer/line/franchise because…” type of fan who can be condescending, abusive, rude and generally vile to people who disagree with their view. They set themselves up as the experts and can be very aggressive online, especially to people who are new to the interest. For many people it can be a very frightening prospect to post an opinion on a comics forum for the first time, just because they expect this sort of response. Perhaps in a context like a MOOC, where people are trying to learn a bit more about comic book characters, there’s a hold over of that fear – especially if the course is self paced and they might worry that students who have been studying for longer will mock them?

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