Learning … loosely?

“Sealion” flickr photo by wwarby https://flickr.com/photos/wwarby/16211398843 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I was catching up with episode three of Loose Learners whilst out running yesterday. Mariana and John were discussing the (mis?)use of social media for sharing, or what for some might be more accurately termed bragging, selling or self-promoting. It was suggested that people come to Twitter with different models of how they intend to use it. Some see it as a purely broadcasting medium, others amplify the content of others, whilst many see it as a place to interact. Perhaps it’s not quite so clear cut and many participants do some of each at different times? I tend to see the ‘fine line’ between bragging and sharing that Mariana and John were suggesting, as an awful lot wider … and fuzzier!. That fuzziness arises as a combination of the ‘intent’ of the user that Mariana described, and the expectations of the recipient. A particular user might have a specific purpose in mind when tweeting something out, but whether that’s perceived as sharing, bragging or self-promotion will also depend on the internal compass within the recipient and what they find acceptable.Read More »

Crisis? What crisis?

“Ethnographic travels” by IaninSheffield https://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/34518811716 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

As I prepare for my supervisory meeting this week, I’m reminded of the previous meeting when I offered  this rendering (It’s a much smaller version of the full one and I’m far from happy with the way it displays what I want, but … well, compromise!). It’s an attempt to show some of the activity I’ve been engaged in as a participant observer, but also a little more than that. It serves several functions, providing:

  • a visual record of what came to my attention and whether I chose to interact;
  • direct hyperlinks back to the tweets, sites, posts or comments i.e. the original data which attracted my gaze;
  • a precis of the information/data behind that data point;
  • my observational comments – why it attracted my attention, what I thought and what I did; and
  • a kickstart of the process of analysis.

This sits alongside a slightly more conventional set of field notes, although much more brief than the notes which might usually accompany field work. I didn’t see them as needing to capture all the rich detail of the people in view – what they were doing and trying to achieve, what and how they communicated and so on. My notes certainly bear little resemblance to those of traditional ethnography, but then this isn’t a traditional ethnography.Read More »

Ethnomethodology – everyday and commonsense talk? Really?

“How to exit an elevator” flickr photo by ekurvine https://flickr.com/photos/ekurvine/5054438471 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Another of the areas that I was advised to take a look at during my last doctoral supervision meeting was that of ethnomethodology. I guess that was on the basis of how I was describing my unfolding approach. I have to confess that, other than being aware of the term, I knew little else about ethnomethodology, so here’s a brief summary of what I’ve found.Read More »


By Mysid (Own work. Self -made in Blender & Inkscape.) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
As I was writing the preceding post in which I introduced chronotopes and the notion of timespace, as a former physics teacher, I couldn’t help but reflect on Bakhtin’s inspiration, Einstein’s spacetime. I suspect that after poaching the idea of time and space being interwoven and co-constitutive, Bakhtin took the physics no further. I wondered therefore whether there might be other aspects of the physics concept that might be usefully ported across to the sociolinguistic.Read More »

Chronotope … sadly, not a Dr Who villain

Every tweet has a timestamp embedded within it. Posts on blogs are (usually) arranged chronologically. One quick click on any Wikipedia page provides access to the history of edits leading to the current version. Time seems to have a much greater significance on the Web than it does in print media. Sure, books and magazines have a publishing date, but that tends to be at the top level; a cut off time when the article went to print, rather than the time(s) when the text was authored. I knew that at some stage I would need to apply myself to the temporality of learning online and through Twitter, and when I came across the idea of the chronotope, it seemed like the right … time?Read More »

Silent majority

When @MartinaEmke kindly retweeted my tweet promoting my last post, she followed it up with this provocation:

Although the people associated with the tweets was beyond the scope of that post, I must confess, it’s a topic to which I’ve already devoted some thought. How might we account for those who remain invisible because they don’t (inter)act? Approaching this with a sociomaterial sensibility, it would be too easy to claim that since there is no action, they cannot be deemed to be actors; they cannot be ‘followed’ and there is therefore little to say about them. Studies of this phenomenon, often called ‘lurking,’ have emerged which frame this behaviour in positive terms (Nonnecke & Preece, 2003; Walker et al, 2013). Crawford (2011) suggests using a metaphor of ‘listening’ as a way to conceptualise lurking. This then redefines the activity from being “vacant and empty figurations to being active and receptive processes.” However, Martina’s question seemed to require a more methodological framing; how does actor-network theory deal with something it can’t ‘see?’Read More »

Untangling, then becoming entangled with #NAT5HRUAE

Hashtag. Hash … tag. A symbol and a few characters.

I was pretty sure when I wrote this post about hashtags and how they were used, that it was unfinished business. When the following tweet popped up in my timeline, I knew it was time to pay a return visit:

An initial inspection of Malcolm’s tweet reveals it to be a quote tweet (QT), in which the original tweet is embedded in full (although not shown above), together with Malcolm’s comments. (As a separate issue, perhaps the QT is one way of sidestepping the 140 character limit whilst performing interesting additional work, and is probably worthy of a post in its own right?) In the embedded tweet, we see the original hashtag to which Malcolm was referring, plus two additional hashtags that he used in his own tweet. Apart from their structural difference, are they also performing different work? Before I begin to unpick that, let me first say a little about the exchange which unfolded when I asked Malcolm whether he knew anything more about the hashtag. Now that Twitter threads an exchange of tweets, you’ll be able to follow the whole thing for yourself by clicking through to the above tweet, but let me summarise.Read More »

Tracing the spaghetti

“Tracing the field” flickr photo by IaninSheffield https://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/28898253850 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Right from the start I called this visualisation ‘Tracing the field,’ unaware of the entanglements this might draw me into. I intended to provide the reader, reviewer, examiner, with a sense of my ethnographic meanderings; a trail to show where I’d been, what and who I’d encountered, what they had been doing and the ways in which they were all interconnected. An addition or enhancement to the more traditional textual field notes; one which provides an immediate sense of the whole, but which also provides quick access to the detail – a virtual zoom button. Given the functionalities within graphical drawing packages, it would also be possible to go a step further and provide hyperlinks back to the stopping points, the forks in the road. So in a similar way to how field notes recall and reflect on one’s experiences, my ‘Tracing’ would do the same and invite a reader to explore those steps . The problem was my choice of words.Read More »

It must be a sign …

“Tracing the field” by IaninSheffield https://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/28898253850 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

In my most recent doctoral supervision meeting, I briefly mentioned how I’m recording/tracking the paths I’m taking as I conduct my ethnographic observations. For me, it’s a way to visualise where I’ve been, when I was there, what I saw, what I thought; an alternative to the more traditional, textual field notes (which I’m also keeping by the way). In the meeting, I innocently referred to the process as ‘tracing the field,’ as I have done here in the past. Oh dear! I’d used one of those … ‘little words;’ in fact I’d compounded the problem by also mentioning mapping and representing. Once again I’d committed the sin of using words which may be fine to use in everyday contexts, but which in academic discourse, require much more unpicking. The upshot was that I needed to establish what I meant by these terms. To go away and read, then perhaps write a blog post. Here is the first; I suspect I may need another … or more!Read More »