6 thoughts on “ScanFilmTV MOOC Micro Ethnography V 2: http://t.co/xc2fZxsf2I via @YouTube @paulfameli #mscedc attempt to correct slide transition timings”

  1. It sounds like you had a fair few tech hitches with this one PJ, so well done on getting it all pulled together and up in YouTube. It sounds like your main finding was that the most active people on the MOOC were those with some prior knowledge of the course content: that in itself is interesting and a useful insight.

    I wondered what you own positioning as a researcher was here? You say that you thought carefully about the ethical issues, and that’s great, but I would have liked to see maybe a little bit of reflection on your own position as a participant observer, as I know this was something you expressed some concern about in the discussion forum. I guess some of the language you use in the ethnography, particularly around research method, ‘variables’ and ‘correlation’, led me to feel that there may have been a bit of a tension between the ethnographic form and a more straightforward quantitative approach to looking at the forums, so it’d be interesting to hear a bit more about this at some point.

  2. One of the first decisions that I was confronted as a novice ‘virtual ethnographer’ in designing this micro-ethnography was whether to assume a participant observation or a non-participant observation position. EDC peer Clare tweeted some advice from Ghazala Bhatti (2012) about starting with an ‘open-ended question’ to initiate ethnographic research because “ethnography is unpredictable” (p. 81). The research may lead in directions different from the original research question. Bhatti provides a poignant, concise (4 page) digest of “ethnographic and representational styles” (pp.80-83) in the (MScDE Course) Research Methods textbook (Chapter 10) including a helpful list of questions for the researcher to ask before entering the field of study. Bhatti added: “what actually happens in the field defines the final focus of the research and the way in which it is written up and presented. (p. 81)

    I made the decision to assume an active participant observation (an“emic” approach in anthropology terms) because: 1) I was genuinely interested in the topic of the MOOC (Scandinavian Film and TV Culture) that I was studying and wanted to learn the course content, 2) I thought that I would gain more insight into the MOOC online community through direct participation. Bhatti (citing Eisner, 1991) convinced me further to assume this approach by arguing that the “the main tool or of data collection of data collection is researcher’s own self.” (p. 82).”

    After the first week of observation in the ScanFilmTV MOOC, I shared some of the practical and ethical dilemmas that I had encountered in off-blog email communications with our EDC instructors, seeking their advice and guidance. One dilemma was that I found that by participating openly as a MOOC student, while ‘cloaking’ my researcher role, I had become one three of the top forum discussion posters, which was exactly the phenomenon that I was researching. I had posted about half dozen comments regarding the Dogme 95 (avant garde film-making style) movement launched by Danish Director Las von Trier. These discussion comments drew some attention from other MOCC students and elevated my discussion forum ‘reputation’ beyond my expectations. For the final micro-ethnography artefact posted on this site, I (my “MOOC student self”) was actually one of the top forum posters that my “ethnographic reseracher self” analyzed. So I was an active participant as a MOOC student, while simultaneously executing my role as ethnographer and observing myself as subject. This ‘bifurcated positioning’ demands a certain level of ‘meta-cognitive’ ‘role differentiation’. Even though I did not post any further comments during the 3rd week of the ScanFilmTV, I still remain amongst the top 12 forum posters. EDC peer Emlyn faced a similar dilemma expressed in his MOOC micro-ethnography at some stage about whether to engage more actively within the MOOC. Emlyn and some other EDC peers chose to distance themselves; in other words, adopt an “etic”- scientific approach. In my case, I felt that I wanted a closer interaction with the online community to better understand their motivations in taking the MOOC. I wanted to ‘sense what they were sensing’ which I did not think was possible from a distnace. But, I did not go to the extent of or ‘baiting’ or ‘manipulating’ my fellow MOOC students with questions to advance the research. I merely expressed my own interests from a MOOC student perspective, and observed their engagements with others in the community. Also, if I had been more active, I might have inadvertantly further elevated my own reputation, just by drawing attention to my comments. So there is a dynamic adjudication and balancing that the reseracher has to consider when engaged in ethnographic research.

    In the ethics realm, I intended to subscribe to a ‘teleological’ position of assuming full responsibility for the consequences of my actions (e.g., omission and commission) in conducting the research and I was consciously engaged in self-reflection throughout the project on the ethical consideration of methodology, data collection and analysis, and final representation of findings (e.g., micro-ethnography artefact). The alternative ‘deontological’ position regards information obtained through public internet sites as free of ethical constraints. (Marshall,p. 252). While my stated objective was to ‘avoid harm to the subjects,’ I did not seek explicit consent from the participants or the organizer. Marshall espoused that “researcher ease and convenience are not justifications against the need for consent.” (p. 257). Also, although I was careful to protect the anonymity of the subjects (e.g, top forum posters), for example, by masking their names in screen shots of the discussion forum, I did cite their nationality, gender, and profession if available, to give a sense of the global diversity of the MOOC students. Given the expediency of the design, implementation and delivery of the project, there was too much ‘risk’ involved in seeking permission. Therefore, an ethical purist I could be accused of defaulting from my teleological position to a more expedient and convenient deontological approach.

    In sum, these examples highlight the ethnographic truism (Bhatti, citing Hammersley and Atkinson, (1983)) that “many ethnographers have felt the tension which is inevitable when they have to be insiders and outsiders simultaneously.” (p.82)

  3. Hi PJ, thanks for the artefact, I curated a Dogme 95′ programme as a part of the Manchester International Short Film Festival back in 97′ or so, so really interesting for me. I enjoyed the format, and content needless to say, and this is of course relevant to the point that Sian makes with respect to your focus on prior knowledge. this kind of ties in with a point in my mini ethnograph of the National Film and Television School MOOC, where prior knowledge of course content, perhaps accelerated their community engagement and creation (in the participation and creation of a community outside of the MOOC). Thanks.

    1. Miles, thanks for kind comments. It seems that we have common interests in film and TV culture. I would like to share more on interest in Dogme 95 after EDC. Would like hear more about your previous work. I am searching to see if there are any Dogme ’95 retrospectives (20 years later). My subject ScanFilmTV is now entering final Week 5 and the top discussion forum rankings rankings are relatively intact from Week 1, perhaps indicating that ‘early engagers’ with previous expertise sustain their posting habits over duration of MOOC. Cheers, PJ

  4. Hi PJ
    I really like the music film score you’ve overlaid on this and the exploration of expertise and reward systems. Makes me wonder about motivations and some of Bordeui’s work around social capital and distinction. Would be really interesting to interview some of these members and see how they feel about their reward points!

  5. PJ that’s a really nice piece of reflection on your position and role as observer-participant: it sounds to me as though you surfaced and negotiated these tensions about as effectively as you could have in a task of this size. Many thanks for the clarification.

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