Michael commented on Crouchipuss (Matt Crouch)’s EDC lifestream – ‘Some NHS e-Learning about an NHS MOOC – My Microethnographic Artefact for Block 2’

Some NHS e-Learning about an NHS MOOC – My Microethnographic Artefact for Block 2

Michael Wolfindale:

I love the way you have laid out your findings in the style of an NHS e-learning course, Matt! It’s very fitting and sets the scene, as you look at the NHS MOOC while sitting within the NHS (with your knowledge of the particular power structures and particularities there).

You’ve communicated the data really well, and there are some familiar patterns here seen in the other micro-ethnographies, such as the initial spike in activity on the discussion forums yet lack of replies to the ‘solitary statements’ (with the exception of the occasional “agree”/”like”). It’s fascinating how you have honed in on this aspect, how the number of likes is close to the number of posts, and particularly the reflections on the possible reasons behind this (and that this kind of engagement might suit “lurkers”).

Your reflection that ‘a lot of activity seemed to be concentrated between relatively few people’ chimes with my own experiences – both in xMOOCs, but also during my own study where I made connections with just a handful of people (despite the huge complex scale) – it comes back to the idea of “cliques” which you mentioned recently. I also really like how you’ve laid out the categories, drawing on the readings and frameworks we’ve looked at.

Also, it’s interesting how you’ve drawn on your own experience to argue that perhaps some don’t necessarily _want_ to be part of a community (and this isn’t necessarily bad!). It brings me back to this tweet from Stephen Downes that ‘lurking is a legitimate and valued form of participation’.

Great work!

Michael commented on Val Muscat’s EDC lifestream – ‘My ethnography – A community with a focus’

My ethnography – A community with a focus

Michael Wolfindale:

Brilliant artefact, Val, and I love the way you have organised things through Focusky! As others have mentioned, there’s so much rich detail in your findings, but so clearly presented.

I like how you’ve included the communications from edX – interesting how they describe it as a ‘semi-public space’, which got me thinking about this problematic open/closed binary we’ve touched on before. It’s fantastic that you have included such thoughtful reflections on the ethical considerations around the small study, pondering whether participants would realise the full scope of the study while taking thorough precautions.

It’s also interesting to see this subset of anonymous students, and reminded me of this article from Siân Bayne, which argues that ‘capability for anonymity can be enabling’ for some:

I really like how you’ve presented all the data you’ve collected so methodically, while acknowledging your own “presence” in the course, with thoughtful reflections alongside. I particularly like the clear relationship map, and the way you’ve categorised things (reminds me of the complexity and difficulty of trying to glean and map out connections in my own study!). You’ve experimented with a wide range of different methods, and it’s provided such a lot of food for thought and ideas in a clearly presented artefact. Great job!

Michael commented on Jon Jack’s EDC lifestream – ‘Ethnographic Object’

Ethnographic Object

Michael Wolfindale:

Thanks Jon, brilliant artefact and love the way you’ve presented this! Really clear visuals which allowed me to soak up your findings quickly.

As others have mentioned, I think it’s great how you’ve highlighted some really interesting and varied methods through which it is possible to analyse findings from the MOOC, such as sentiment analysis, quotes and observations, frequently used terms and so on.

It’s also interesting how some of the students recorded their initial frustrations/issues but then subsequently recorded their own resolutions – probably quite common in programming I suppose, where it’s easy to misplace that semicolon! Thinking of our current algorithmic cultures block, and also about learning analytics, it also made me consider those aspects which may not (currently) be ‘tracked’ (such as those who may have chosen not to post their issues then resolved them, or continued to struggle, “quietly”). I wonder what other aspects might be “hidden”?

Great artefact and really thought provoking – thank you!

Michael commented on Adrienne O Mahoney’s EDC lifestream – ‘Micro-ethnography of Mooc’

Micro-ethnography of Mooc

Michael Wolfindale:

Really like the way you have presented your micro-ethnography, Adrienne, and some fantastic visuals and commentary here! Also brilliant that you’ve included a transcript which, as David mentioned, is great for accessibility and allowing multiple ways to engage with the artefact.

The lack of evidence of community on the discussion boards seems to be a common theme through many of the xMOOCs in the micro-ethnographies, yet it was fascinating to see how the map/image activity drew students in and your comments on Kozinet’s “central consumption activity”. I saw some evidence of this during my own study, when students produced a radio bumper, where it was possible for them to share a little of their identity through the activity; interest in the activity also encouraged students to develop their skills in the area. I ended up making my own, and did feel a little sense of achievement at producing something which helped to foster a few connections later on. Have you felt anything similar while studying?

Great artefact – really enjoyed it!

Michael commented on Monica Siegenthaler’s EDC lifestream – ‘Micro Ethnography’

Micro Ethnography


Michael Wolfindale:

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!

Michael commented on Jiyoung Kwon’s EDC lifestream – ‘microethnography’

#mscedc This is the link of my microethnography, but I am a bit embarrassed having seen other classmates’ wonderful outcomes. Anyway I hope everyone enjoyed this artefact! https://t.co/Jnmmjh2csS

Brilliant artefact, Jiyoung! Love the way you’ve laid this out and structured it so clearly through Visme – it’s really visually compelling.

Interesting to see, as others have mentioned above, that the assessed participation in discussion forums, in this case, seemed to result in a lot of “agreed” posts (similar to a “like” as you’ve visually shown!), but few posts of other kinds. We spent quite a lot of time reflecting on discussion forum participation and rubrics in the Understanding Learning in the Online Environment (ULOE) course on this programme, and it was fascinating to see how different set ups (activities/word limits/’question games’) changed the dynamic.

These kind of discussion forums often seen in xMOOCS were in such contrast to the connectivist-informed course I looked at (ds106) – there were such a rich variety of complex connections through different spaces at the same time (Twitter, blog comments, audio/video, radio tweet alongs, tutor commentary on student blog comments) that my struggle was trying to pin down where to focus for the small study and how to sum it up succinctly!

Great artefact, and you’ve done a brilliant job at focusing and communicating your conclusions!

Michael saved in Pocket: ‘Learning in the Collective’ (Thomas and Seely Brown 2013)


‘This core aspect of education in the new culture of learning presents a model for understanding learning in the face of rapid change. Teachers no longer need to scramble to provide the latest up-to-date information to students because the students themselves are taking an active role in helping to create and mold it, particularly in areas of social information.

We call this environment a collective. As the name implies, it is a collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts. For our purposes, collectives are not solely defined by shared intention, action, or purpose (though those elements may exist and often do). Rather, they are defined by an active engagement with the process of learning.

A collective is very different from an ordinary community. Where communities can be passive (though not all of them are by any means), collectives cannot. In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation.

In the new culture of learning, collectives, as we define them, become the medium in which participation takes shape. They are content-neutral platforms, waiting to be filled with interactions among participants. As such, they are well designed to facilitate peer-to-peer learning, their raison d’etre. And once they can no longer do so, their demise is similarly well designed. Since there are no bricks-and-mortar investment costs associated with their creation, collectives can simply cease to exist.’

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Michael saved in Pocket: ‘No! You should not do DS106’


‘DS106 subscribes to what Cormier calls ‘community as curriculum’ . Using the image of a Rhizome to discuss education he states ‘curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the subject of its learning’  This is succinctly summed by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel (2013), ‘the action of interactivity is itself a learning experience’. Potential learners who have a strong need to follow set learning outcomes and to have these aligned with clear assessment should think twice about signing up to DS106. Seely Brown makes the distinction between using peer support to understand or to construct knowledge and, depending on one’s pedagogical position, one can argue about feasibility and validity of knowledge created within a community. What is relevant here is that in DS106 the community is more what Thomas and Seely Brown (2013) call a collective,

“A collective is very different from an ordinary community. Where communities can be passive […], collectives cannot. In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation.”

The collective aspect of DS106 is very striking when you join it. It has its own oral tradition and it is no secret that shared narrative creates group cohesion. As storytelling is the focus of DS106, it is clear that community/collective members understand the importance of a shared oral tradition and they use technology in order to foster it. Should you choose to do DS106 you will soon come across a tapestry of stories that are continually being added to by members; from talking dolls  that embody care and empathy, to tough military men who bully you into ‘making art, damn, it’. Then there are the dead bodies, the headless photos, dancing professors and not forgetting the re-invokation of missing people via animated gif creation. Yes, it takes a particular kind of learner to engage with the mythology of DS106 and understand that the learning is in the engagement. There is no linear guide for new members, the stories weave in the interactions of those who ‘get it’. By definition there must be those who try to join in but never ‘get it’ and leave without a trace. What students slowly learn is that the process of interacting is as much part of the digital storytelling to be learnt as working through tutorials in the handbook. There is a richness in this that cannot be put in a box, and what is also true is that there is a great deal of unpredictability in it and the danger of it raising fears about inclusion/exclusion always latent in us humans.’

‘It is of interest to me that I started this post talking about how DS106 elicits strong emotion for and against; defended as a bastion of creativity in education and vilified for being an elitist outfit only accessible to the few. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but an internet gathering that has so much in common with hacker culture may not suit all. And those of us choosing to participate, may do well to remember there is an inevitable shadow side to a participatory dynamic based on strong identification with ideals or leaders. Health warning: It is not my intention to imply that anyone in the DS106 community is a hacktivist in any way shape or form, simply that the organisational structure of DS106 is similar to other open internet groups and not all have educational purposes in mind.’

‘My personal experience has been nothing but positive with a passion and commitment for what DS106 stands for coming through in everyone involved, but dangers lurk that this same dynamic of passion and commitment could be misused by new members, if not current ones. Some see this interactional pattern and have accused DS106 of being cult. I joked about this at the start of this post and the community jokes about this often, but again there are some serious issues to be raised within the humour’

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Michael commented on Sean Flower’s EDC lifestream – ‘Education & Digital Cultures – Micro-Ethnography’

Education & Digital Cultures – Micro-Ethnography #mscedc https://t.co/Ph4H5aB20F

Michael Wolfindale:

Great artefact, Sean – really nice use of visuals and clearly laid out!

Your mention of discussion forums as the only means of interaction – designed in a very prescriptive way with a rigid structure – resonates with many experiences I’ve had on (x)MOOCs in the past. Also, you point out the ‘one-way transmission of information’ – which again seems common in some courses – and brings to mind the ‘banking concept of education’ that Paulo Freire (2014 [1970]: 72) critiques:

‘Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.’ (Freire 2014 [1970]: 72)

Some great observations and visuals and very thought provoking – thank you!

Freire, P., 2014 [1970]. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Week seven: Researching communities…interactions between entities or entangled intra-relations?

As we conclude our block on community cultures, and I post my micro-ethnography artefact Entangled Communities, many questions/issues have been raised.

Inspired by David Yeats’ artefact grappling with a community apparently “present” but “hidden”, I pondered on how/whether this might be tracked and issues of surveillance that link to our next algorithmic cultures block. His artefact also asks ‘what is community?‘, and I wondered how we might define it…

  • a ‘creative “gathering”‘ (Bayne 2015b: 456) around a ‘shared domain of interest’ (Wenger 1998; Lave and Wenger 1991)?
  • a feeling ‘produced by more-than-human assemblages’ (Hickey and Moody 2019: 2)?

While researching, should we focus on a network of ‘connections between entities’ (Siemens 2005) or on agential relations and ‘intra-actions’ where agency is co-constitued (Barad 2007; Hickey and Moody 2019: 4-5)?

As I constructed/traversed a network of connections (Downes 2017) in the connectivist-informed ds106, “I” and “my study” (including my field notes) became “entangled” in the course/community I was studying and my artefact itself appeared increasingly like a tangled network map of connectionsI noted the course/community boundaries blurring and the traditional MOOC form questioned.

Entangled Communities
Entangled Communities

Questioning my research methods, I explored various approaches including the speculative method (Ross 2017)

…rather than an “observer” collecting data about something “out there”, are researchers entangled with the “object” of research where data generated/collected ‘is co-created by the fieldwork assemblage’ (Hickey-Moody and Willcox 2019: 5)?

Finally, as I listened to ds106 radiois sound a ‘vibrational event’, and listening an embodied experience (Ceraso 2018)?

On that note, I’m experimenting with a short audio snippet to conclude:

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