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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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:

View references

Micro-ethnography artefact – ‘Entangled Communities’

My micro-ethnography artefact Entangled Communities – focused on the ds106 ‘open’ course – primarily consists of a “Miro board” (or network map), but is presented with this accompanying blog post in my lifestream. I hope this helps to contextualise the small-scale study and offer some initial thoughts, particularly on the questions around research ethics and methods that were raised.

You can browse the board directly, and this post also links to certain “frames” (boxed areas) on the board at points. This includes key areas I focused upon for my micro-ethnography, which include the ds106 radio that hosted a series of live shows and tweet-alongs during the audio week of the course, and associated assignments including the radio bumper.

The accompanying post elaborates on the background of ds106, and some of the complex and difficult questions raised, however in the spirit of TL;DR, you can jump straight to the conclusions if you wish!

(You can also view my field notes #1, field notes #2 and the feed from my lifestream connected to the “ds106 flow”.)

Explore Miro board

Miro board


  • Enter the Miro board.
  • Move around the map using the controls at the bottom-right. You will need to zoom in to see the detail. There are overlapping “frames” which group micro-artefacts together, and lines which highlight perceived connections.
  • Alternatively, you can click through the frames, or enter the presentation mode, using the controls at the bottom left.

Entangled communities? (Photo by Noor SethiUnsplash.)

‘To be entangled is not simply to be intertwined with another, as in the joining of separate entities, but to lack an independent, self-contained existence. Existence is not an individual affair. Individuals do not preexist their interactions; rather individuals emerge through and as part of their entangled intra-relating.’ (Barad 2007: ix)


My micro-ethnography centres around the connectivist-informed ‘open’ ds106 course on digital storytelling, of which I have joined as an open participant’ during this community cultures block. Stephen Downes (2007) describes connectivism as ‘the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.’

As noted in my field notes #1, ds106 originates and is currently running (in spring 2020) at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). For the 31 UMW students this semester, the course is actually designated CPSC 106 (ComputerScience), but is run publicly via ds106.us. Each student has their own blog (much like on this Education and Digital Cultures course), which is connected to the ds106 flow“, and completes a series of weekly assignments and summary posts. There is also an open and community-run ds106 radio station, which is used during the course. ds106 is also available for ‘open participants’, who can participate in any way (at any pace) they wish; this might include commenting, submitting assignments and connecting a blog to the flow (as I have done). All course materials and blogs are public and not behind a login, and the main form of discussion is through the #ds106 Twitter hashtag. There are also a number of connections with related courses at other institutions which connect into the ds106 flow. Due to the distributed nature of ds106, which questions traditional MOOC forms and qualities, ds106 is arguably more of a community than a course; ‘open participants’ such as myself can forge their own pathway (Levine 2013; 2014).

Approach, ethics and methods

I started by connecting a filter of my own lifestream (based on a ds106 category) to the ds106 flow (see Miro board). This displays posts with this category in the ds106 flow, alongside all other ds106 posts, but linking back to my own lifestream. I posted an introductory post outlining that I was carrying a small-scale study as part of this MSc in Digital Education, and inviting anyone who wishes to be excluded from the study to add comments to the post.

While ds106, and the connected student blogs, comments and Twitter streams are all “public”, I am conscious that despite my best efforts some may not have seen my introductory post. Thus, during many of my later participations, I linked back to the initial post in order to contextualise my presence and intentions, and allow any concerns to be voiced via comments. In addition, as suggested by Helene Fournier et al. (2014: 3), I have taken care to anonymise quotes and any personal details for, adanah boyd (2014: 57) argues, ‘there’s a big difference between being in public and being public’.

Given the distributed nature of ds106, and the sheer volume of content on blogs, the aggregated ds106 flow and Twitter streams (largely #ds106 and #ds106radio, but with other related hashtags such as #4life, assignment/activity hashtags and other related communities such as #clmooc), it was a complex challenge to both focus the micro-ethnography for the purposes of the small study and find a way to both log my findings and find a way to begin draw any conclusions. This challenge in itself, however, was fruitful in considering the limitations of research methods and approaches in general, from a theoretical standpoint as well as the ethical and practical issues involved. Inspired by Markham and Lindgren (2014), who discuss network analysis and symbolic interactionism, and show a range of visual examples including network maps, I decided to compile screenshots, links, quotes, audio and video artefacts of interest into a Miro board“.

After some very broad exploration of the ds106 community, or ‘deep hanging out’ (boyd 2008: 29), I began with a loose focus around the radio bumper assignment (one of the focuses for UMW students at the time), the ‘make noise from a normal sample‘ assignment (from the assignment bank for anyone to try at any time), and the ds106radio. However, I was keen to remain open-minded and uncover new questions as I went, as suggested by danah boyd (2008: 29). The Miro board “network map” quickly grew in complexity and at times removed focus from the initial empirical object for analysis, as predicted by Markham and Lindgren (2014), although they view this as a positive which can allow a greater focus on the research question at hand rather than pre-determined empirical or theoretical objects.

In addition to the ethical questions of researching a ‘public’ space mentioned above, my micro-ethnography brought up a range of questions about research methods. For example, my initial explorations involved ‘lurking’ in the ds106 community, listening to ds106 radio and monitoring #ds106 and #ds106radio Twitter streams. Whether and how I might participate in activities was initially in question. However, inspired by Tim Ingold’s assertion that ‘we don’t make studies of people, we study with them and learn from them’, and boyd (2008: 29) who argues that ‘to observe a culture, you must build rapport, be present, and participate’, I began to ‘entangle’ myself into the ds106 community. I submitted a radio bumper and other audio assignments, commented on others’ radio bumper posts and branched out into the #ds106 Twitter stream.

While I began with a general idea to focus on the audio assignments and radio shows, I uncovered the broader question of if/how/why these might create a sense of ‘community’ or ‘belonging’, what connections might be made, and what entanglements may occur with other wider communities. I collected some of the screenshots and observations into some rough live field note posts (#1 and #2) in my lifestream, and included these in the Miro board also. These are public and in clicking through from my participations in the ds106 flow and other ds106 feeds, it is possible for anyone to link through to my live field notes and the unfolding micro-ethnography. It is possible that UMW students accessed or explored this – what effect might this have had on ds106, EDC and my own research?

Finally, I wrote this concluding lifestream post to accompany the Miro board or “network map” and added links here through to specific “frames” within the Miro board, such as the radio shows/tweet-alongs, radio bumper assignment, and the research methods themselves (and indeed this very post). In a sense, the research methods, means of data collection and so on are entangled with the ‘object of the research process’, and ‘co-created by the fieldwork assemblage’ (Hickey and Moody 2019: 5); considering these entanglements have inspired my artefact’s name and presentation.


During my micro-ethnography, I began to explore new materialist approaches to think about ‘community’, ‘belonging’ and ‘togetherness’, such as those used by Hickey-Moody and Willcox (2019). Drawing on Braidotti (2013), Barad (2007) and others, Hickey-Moody and Willcox (2019: 4-5) acknowledge that we are entangled with our research sites, that both we and the subjects of our research change through that entanglement. Hickey and Moody (2019: 4-5) build on Barad’s (2007) concept of ‘intra-action’, questioning the boundaries implied by ‘interaction’ whereby independent discrete entities with individual agency relate; instead entities intra-act and agency is co-constituted and entangled. Thus, the focus should not be on the individual entities, but on the agential relations.

As Hickey-Moody and Willcox (2019: 4) put it, ‘feminist new materialism accounts for this enmeshment of the social and the material, the virtual and real, human and non-human assemblage…all bodies, not just human bodies, are endowed with agency and complexity’. Given the nature of ds106, where participants (some co-located at University of Mary Washington, some ‘open participants’ such as myself) work on multimodal assignments (often making use of their own or others’ technology), this is significant. The ‘virtual’ experiences of participants are enmeshed with their ‘real’ lives, their backgrounds, the way in which they produce audio, video, visuals and so on, and this is all entangled with socio-economic and political factors. We may also take a new materialist approach to sound itself – viewing it as ‘a vibrational event’ which is ‘shaped and distorted by the materials and spaces in which it occurs’ (Ceraso 2018). Furthermore, my research study and methods are entangled with, and cannot be separated from, the object of research. Taking a feminist new materialist approach, we cannot simply say the ds106 community exists ‘online’ and is a research site ready for “things” to be discovered by an impartial observer.

What implications, then, might this have for research? Given that taking this approach problematises research which takes a more traditional or humanist approach, Lather and Pierre (2013: 630) speak of ‘post-qualitative research’; acknowledging that we cannot untangle “us” and the “object” of research, we might instead ‘see our research methods as open-ended ways of changing environments and changing people’ (Hickey and Moody 2019: 5); in this way, the research methods themselves are agentive.

While the scope of my micro-ethnography was necessarily limited, there were examples of these entanglements. One includes listening into ds106 radio during the one hour broadcast and tweet-along. At the beginning, the tutor announced the number of listeners reported by the server, and asked who was listening in. I was acting as a “lurker”/listener at this point, and so it may have been apparent to those announcing themselves through Twitter that there were others listening in. Yet, had I announced myself, would I have declared myself as both an open participant and researcher (as I had done elsewhere), and how might the broadcast and tweet-along have been altered? In any case, my entanglement with the research site was apparent here.

It was notable that, as a ‘lurker’/‘newbie’ (Kozinets 2010: 33) to the ds106 community, I received little comment on my own work as an ‘open participant’ from those studying as part of the spring semester as University of Mary Washington. There were some views and likes on my audio submissions on SoundCloud, although it was difficult to ascertain whether these were from UMW students or elsewhere. However, in attempting to“connect” the #ds106, #ds106radio and #mscedc hashtags/communities, I received likes and comments from those within the #mscedc community and a follow from a regular contributor to the #ds106 ‘Daily Create’ challenges and other related communities such as #clmooc. This follower also shares with me a passion for music, as we share on our Twitter profiles, and this perhaps speaks to the grouping of “micro-communities” around a ‘central consumption activity’ (Kozinets 2010: 31) or ‘shared domain of interest’ (Wenger 1998; Lave and Wenger 1991).

In ds106, there are many pathways an ‘open participant’ can follow or create, and this is by design (Levine 2013). However, access to these ‘open’ spaces this does not automatically mean inclusion in each of the “micro-communities” Collier and Ross 2017: 8). My short time with ds106 has shown perhaps that it is more likely participants may group around a “central consumption activity” (Kozinets 2010); this might include the UMW course itself, or individual assignments such as the ones I took part in. For ‘open participants’ such as myself, participants may group around activities for a number of reasons, for example their background, existing knowledge and skills or so on, or perhaps even equipment or software they own (the audio assignments could be one example, where it appeared that some participants had specialist equipment).

As I write this post, the UMW students are getting into groups to prepare a radio show for ds106 radio, and the radio station could be seen as another “micro-community” in itself. It is possible to sign up (via a Google Doc) for extra responsibilities such as scheduling and broadcasting (which in themselves may benefit from certain existing specialist skills or equipment, although some skills may be picked up via the assignments). In a way, signing up for this could be one way for me to progress from a ‘lurker’ (or listener) to a ‘maker’, as Kozinets (2010: 33-34) puts it.

Monitoring tweet-alongs to the evening (Eastern Standard Time) radio shows in the “audio week” (which allowed discussion of a radio documentary, as well as the chance to hear your radio bumper) demonstrated examples of participants (including the tutor) connecting over their background and experiences. One student commented how listening along to the documentary together reminded them of the radio stories their father would listen to in the evening, and the tutor agreed that this same experience was key in introducing them to these kinds of radio shows. Furthermore, it appeared some listeners may have been listening in the same physical location (when one participant announced on Twitter both their own presence and that of a fellow participant), perhaps an additional connection worth noting. Looking at the turnout figures (compared to the “listener” figures reported publicly by the server), there were few ‘lurkers’ although the active participants were themselves a subset of the UMW cohort.

Listening in as an open participant (in a different physical location and time zone to many of the UMW participants) inspired me to take part in some of the audio assignments which other participants were engaging in, I did at times “feel” the “distance” between myself and my fellow UMW participants, and limited by the lack of time I had to engage in all of the activities which UMW students were gaining credit for. These observations perhaps speak to the complexities of ‘location’ and constraints of time in this context (Bayne et al. 2014; Ross et al. 2019; Sheail 2017; Sheail 2018). Furthermore, the necessarily small scope of the micro-ethnography activity meant my short time “with” the ds106 community felt quite temporary, speaking to the ‘fluid and temporary assemblage of engagement’ discussed by Ross et al. (2013: abstract 51).


My small and short study has perhaps raised more questions around research methods than come to concrete conclusions, although considering these questions has been a fruitful exercise in considering the entanglements of the ds106 and related communities with my own research, as well as the complex connections and agential relations between overlapping “micro-communities” that I have attempted to visualise through the Miro “network map”. These micro-communities have often seemed grouped around a ‘central consumption activity’ (Kozinets 2010: 31) or ‘shared domain of interest’ (Wenger 1998; Lave and Wenger 1991), such as the audio assignments or shared experiences of radio.

Returning to my thoughts at the beginning of our community cultures block, a ‘creative “gathering” (Bayne 2015b) where technology and culture are intertwined (Kozinets 2010: 22) and ‘we are part of the world in its ongoing intra-activity’ (Barad 2003: 828), seems an appropriate way to reflect upon my entanglement with ds106. My focus on audio and ds106 radio has encouraged me to reframe sound as a ‘vibrational event’ entangled with the ‘materials and spaces in which it occurs’ (Ceraso 2018), an aspect I hope to explore further in future.

Finally, while ds106 is described as ‘open’, it has been important during my micro-ethnography to reflect upon the false binary between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ (Collier and Ross 2017: 8-9). My own experiences in these ‘open’ spaces have not automatically led to “inclusion” with other participants who are co-located physically at UMW, although time constraints have been a factor and I have forged unexpected connections with those active in related communities. My short time entangled in these communities has raised a great deal of questions, which I hope to explore as I bring this micro-ethnography to a close.

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ds106 field notes #2

Here is the second of my rough “live field notes” concluding my micro-ethnography of ds106

I have been compiling screenshots, links, quotes, audio and video artefacts into a “Miro board“. This allows me to visually group different artefacts, write observations and draw connections in something that resembles a network map. I am making it public as I put my finishing touches to it (in many ways it is a non-static and evolving artefact):

Miro board
Miro board

Some quotes from Twitter and ds106 student/tutor blogs

‘We’ve had three great evenings of live tweeting ds106radio. The point of this was to analyze, together, how sounds can paint pictures and drive stories. My favorite thing about this exercise is that the idea for it came from a class a few years ago. The students suggested it, and it was brilliant. This week, we’ve been listening to ESC: Sonic Adventure in the Anthropocene. We heard episodes 3, 4 and 6 so far.’

The Sounds of Science

‘Tonight I tuned into the Ds106 to listen in and I was truly shocked and in awe of what I heard. Jad Abumrad was right when he said that just with sounds and descriptions someone can paint a vivid picture in your mind…I was expecting to just have someone talking to me and telling me a story but really like Jad Abumrad said, the storyteller was able to make it seem like there was a circle of people and we were all just sitting and listening to him. I would recommend this experience to everybody and am excited to listen to more and maybe even make my own in the future…’

‘I listened to the DS106 Radio this evening and I heard my radio bumper which was very exciting. A podcast was aired in an older style story being narrated to assist in the making of the story. It gave examples of how detailed sound designs makes an audio story successful and descriptive. Just making the sound design is a job in itself.’

Thoughts as I get “involved” in the ds106 community/ies

  • Getting ‘involved’ in the community – feel a little creepy! Commenting on other ds106 student posts – trying to be as transparent as possible, although aware this marks me as a bit of an ‘outsider’?
My comment on another student blog
My comment on another student blog

  • A few SoundCloud likes and views…but difficult to ascertain if this is those from #ds106…
Assignment feed
Assignment feed
  •  Branching out a little into Twitter and #ds106 / #ds106radio, and posting links to my assignment submissions…

  • …and trying another with the #mscedc hashtag:

  • …getting some likes, but in both cases only those from #mscedc. Perhaps I need to spend more time embedding myself actively into the community, to progress from being a ‘newbie’?
  • However, received a new Twitter follow by someone active in the #clmooc and #ds106 (particularly Daily Create) communities, also with a common interest in music…

A new Twitter follow by someone active in the #clmooc and #ds106 (particularly Daily Create) communities, also with a common interest in music

  • Noticed another open participant! Felt a moment of being less ‘alone’ (and posting into the ds106 flow with few comments), although then noticed the comment was from 2012 (separated by time?):
Open participant in ds106
Open participant in ds106

#ds106 Twitter hashtag word clouds (SocioViz)

  • Noting the connections between different communities, often grouped around activities, assignments or challenges:
Hashtag word cloud (04-02-2020 to 10-02-2020)
04-02-2020 to 10-02-2020
Hashtag word cloud (07-02-2020 to 13-02-2020)
07-02-2020 to 13-02-2020
Network word cloud on #ds106 (08-02-2020 to 14-02-2020). Created using SocioViz.
Network word cloud on #ds106 (08-02-2020 to 14-02-2020). Created using SocioViz.
Network word cloud on #ds106radio (08-02-2020 to 14-02-2020). Created using SocioViz.
Network word cloud on #ds106radio (08-02-2020 to 14-02-2020). Created using SocioViz.

General conclusions

Excerpts from my lifestream summary: Week six: ‘Community’ as networks and entanglements:

Entanglements (Photo by Noor SethiUnsplash).

‘As I become entangled in the ds106 community, while building my micro-ethnographic artefact, I reflect upon how the vast complex ds106 community consists of numerous overlapping/entangled networks or “micro-communities”.’

‘“Micro-communities” seem grouped around ‘central consumption’ activities (Kozinets 2010: 31), like assignments/challenges, occurring in different online spaces (Twitter, blogs, ds106radio etc.) and co-existing in physical on-campus spaces. Might this exemplify the blurred boundaries between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ (Hickey-Moody and Willcox 2019)?

You might also view ds106 as a community of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991; Wenger 1998), whereby people with a shared domain of interest participate in and construct an identity around the community.’

‘My involvement as a lurker/listener or ‘newbie’ (Kozinets 2010) has largely involved posting ‘within’ the ds106 flow, without comments from others, and have felt the distinction between my ‘open participant’ status and ‘core’ university students (and perhaps secluded?). However, I have commented on others’ blog posts and, as my confidence grows, started to branch out to Twitter, and connect with related communities/hashtags.’

Michael saved in Pocket: ‘ds106: Not a Course, Not Like Any MOOC’


Looking for something different from the current hysteria of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)? A digital storytelling course started by Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), ds106 was set loose as an open course in January 2011. Yet the UMW catalog does not include such a course. Its actual course designation is CPSC
106 (Computer Science)—a small but telling example of how
ds106 plays with and questions the norm.

Most classes in digital storytelling revolve around the personal video narrative form as popularized by the Center for Digital Storytelling (http://www.storycenter.org/). But ds106 storytelling explores the web as a culture, as a media source, and as a place to publish in the open. Not claiming to authoritatively define digital storytelling, ds106 is a constant process of questioning digital storytelling. Is an animated GIF a story? What does it mean to put “fast food” in the hands of Internet pioneers? Why would we mess with the MacGuffin? Is everything a remix? Though this is perhaps simply semantic wordplay, ds106 is not just “on” the web—it is “of” the web.

Characteristic of ds106 is its distributed structure, mimicking the Internet itself, and its open-source non-LMS platform. Students are charged with registering their own domain, managing their own personal cyberinfrastructure, and publishing to their own website. Via the WordPress plugin FeedWordPress, all content from students is automatically aggregated to the main ds106 site—but all links go back directly to the students’ sites.

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Michael saved in Pocket: ‘The Sounds of Science’


We’ve had three great evenings of live tweeting ds106radio. The point of this was to analyze, together, how sounds can paint pictures and drive stories. My favorite thing about this exercise is that the idea for it came from a class a few years ago. The students suggested it, and it was brilliant. This week, we’ve been listening to ESC: Sonic Adventure in the Anthropocene. We heard episodes 3, 4 and 6 so far.

View full article

Focusing my micro-ethnography on ds106 (‘community’) radio during week five

Reflecting on Karen Barad’s (2003; 2007) agential realism and onto-epistemology, where the “thing” is entangled with the way in which “we” research it, I have found myself questioning how I might research my micro-ethnography and how/whether I should participate (as a ‘lurker‘ or otherwise). How might different kinds of participation affect ‘community’ and the ethical issues surrounding the study?

In my role as ‘open participant‘, having ‘access’ to read/listen/participate in, and feed into, the same activities/assignments as those studying the course through a degree, the binaries between ‘open’/’closed’, ‘insider’/’outsider’, ‘included’/’excluded’ appear blurred and problematic. Is access alone enough to be ‘included’?

Listening to Tim Ingold’s assertion that ‘we don’t make studies of people, we study with them and learn from them’, this week I submitted a radio bumper into the ‘ds106 flow’ alongside the work of students/open participants, with the potential of receiving “airtime” on ds106radio. Is this an example of the kind of entanglement Barad refers to?

Inspired by an article on live field notes, I wrote some field notes of my own, and began focusing my micro-ethnography on ds106radio and the interactions surrounding it

What makes ‘community’ endure in a connectivist-informed course such as ds106, often beyond the end date (“#4life“)?

How might we define/understand/documentcommunity‘? What role might ds106radio, and sound in general, play?

As I continue my micro-ethnography, and refer to relevant literature and examples, I uncover new questions, as suggested by danah boyd (2008: 29), and consider the communities and relations in these distributed educational spaces.

ds106 field notes #1

Blogging some very rough “live field notes” as I continue my micro-ethnography on ds106

What is ds106?

  • ds106 is a connectivist-informed ‘open course on digital storytelling’, originating and currently running (in Spring 2020) at University of Mary Washington.
  • As it is mostly public, with each student having their own blog which is fed into “The ds106 Flow“, you can participate by commenting or connecting your own blog into the flow.
  • ‘#ds106 is #4life’…

First of all, in ds106, there are multiple levels of participation- but most importantly, it is designed so you can pick and choose the when and where. We expect NO APOLOGIES for not being able to participate when other parts of life intrude. There is no concept in ds106 of “dropping out” c.f. Groom, Jim (2010-present), “ds106 is #4life”. (‘How to be an Open Participant in ds106‘)

ds106 is many things, a course and a community. It is ongoing all the time.

Initial impressions of ds106

ds106 is a huge active community. While it originated from the Digital Storytelling course at University of Mary Washington, and is running there this semester, there are numerous offshoots and links – both with ‘open participants’ such as myself and with other university courses such as Kansas State University’s Digital Literacy. As the History of ds106 page states:

  • This course community began at the University of Mary Washington in Spring of 2010 when Jim Groom re-imagined the way the Computer Science Course in Digital Storytelling, CPSC 106, might be taught.

    Since Jim Groom blogged about ds106 as an open and online experiment on December 7, 2010, this site has aggregated and archived 84032 blog posts created by its participants.

There are various components and ways for ‘open participants’ (and students on the university course) to engage. These include the assignment bank and various challenges, including the ‘The Daily Create‘:

Clearly, it is not possible for me to focus on the whole community, particularly given the numerous networks and components. Inspired by danah boyd (2008: 29), I began by focusing very broadly on the ds106 ‘culture’, allowing my observations and interactions to ‘reveal new questions’.

In aiming to focus my very small scale micro-ethnography, one element particularly interests me – the ds106radio. I found myself asking questions such as:

  • What is the effect of this on the ‘community’ of the course?
  • Who manages it, how and why?
  • How does this link to the course/community?
  • Is there a relationship between sound and ‘community’?

I plan for this to be my focus, and this week coincided with the introduction of the radio station to the course, during a week on audio storytelling.

What is ds106radio?

‘DS106radio is a freeform, live streaming, community radio station where anyone can submit or broadcast their work, share ideas and help make the web safe for democracy’ (DS106radio)

Notes on ds106radio

Radio shows this week

  • This week, there were four one hour evening shows hosted by the tutor Paul Bond, with live tweeting throughout on #ds106 / #ds106radio.

  • There was a radio documentary played for discussion, as well as students hearing (and tweeting about) their own radio bumpers and commenting on aspects of the radio documentary.

Having joined as an open participant this week and connected a feed from my blog to the ds106 flow, I had the choice whether or not participate in some activities. Inspired by Tim Ingold who, in this podcast, said…

‘We don’t make studies of people, we study with them and learn from them.’

…as well as boyd (2008: 29), who advises to…

‘Get into the field, hang out, observe, document, question, analyse. Ethnography is about participant observation or deep hanging out; to observe a culture, you must build rapport, be present, and participate.’

…I chose to get involved and posted one of the audio assignments – a short radio bumper for ds106radio.

I look forward to some more ‘deep hanging out’ (boyd 2008: 29) with ds106 and particularly ds106radio over the coming weeks!