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

Michael saved in Pocket: ‘Speculative method in digital education research’ (Ross 2017)


The question of ‘what works’ is currently dominating educational research, often to the exclusion of other kinds of inquiries and without enough recognition of its limitations. At the same time, digital education practice, policy and research over-emphasises control, efficiency and enhancement, neglecting the ‘not-yetness’ of technologies and practices which are uncertain and risky. As a result, digital education researchers require many more kinds of questions, and methods, in order to engage appropriately with the rapidly shifting terrain of digital education, to aim beyond determining ‘what works’ and to participate in ‘intelligent problem solving’ [Biesta, G. J. J. 2010, “Why ‘What Works’ Still Won’t Work: From Evidence-Based Education to Value-Based Education.” Studies in Philosophy and Education 29 (5): 491–503] and ‘inventive problem-making’ [Michael, M. 2012, “‘What Are We Busy Doing?’ Engaging the Idiot.” Science, Technology & Human Values 37 (5): 528–554]. This paper introduces speculative methods as they are currently used in a range of social science and art and design disciplines, and argues for the relevance of these approaches to digital education. It synthesises critiques of education’s over-reliance on evidence-based research, and explores speculative methods in terms of epistemology, temporality and audience. Practice-based examples of the ‘teacherbot’, ‘artcasting’ and the ‘tweeting book’ illustrate speculative method in action, and highlight some of the tensions such approaches can generate, as well as their value and importance in the current educational research climate.

View full article

Michael saved in Pocket: ‘From Object to Flow: Network Analysis, Symbolic Interaction, and Social Media’

My personal tutor Pete Evans pointed me to this paper today during our catch up – of great interest when thinking about our ethnographies in terms of analysis and presentation. Thanks Pete!


Network analysis and a symbolic interaction approach seem incompatible, yet when the tools are separated from the disciplinary parameters for which they were developed (primarily Social Network Analysis, or SNA), a network sensibility offers a beguiling method for extending certain approaches, such as grounded theory, symbolic interactionism, or ethnography, and specifying other approaches, such as actor network theory or practice theory.

In this essay, we make a case for embracing and critically developing network sensibilities as a way to grapple with the complexity of contemporary social media interactions. Our discussion, mostly focused at the level of method, is intended to contribute to ongoing conversations stressing the need to build conceptual and methodological frameworks that resonate more closely with the complexity of networked, technologically-mediated social contexts.

To begin, we clarify the distinction between network analysis and network sensibility. We then discuss three key strengths of using network sensibilities to study the nuances of social media: (1) network practices can generate data and add complexity by producing multiple renderings of potential meaning emerging through social media; (2) the practice of creating and then juxtaposing different visualizations and potential explanations of the situation can help shift focus from objects to relations or flow; and (3) through the practice of constantly rebuilding and shifting visual mappings so different elements are centered, network analysis can become a catalyst for reflexive and ethical practice.

View full article