Category Archives: Ethnography

Week Seven Summary: Much Ado about MOOCs, Mind Wanderings and Meta-Intelligence

Mind Wandering

Where does one begin to tell the story of a intense week of metacognitive skills development, mind wanderings, and explorations of the ‘hidden mysteries’ of these new online communities called “MOOCs”; searching for meaning, trying to make sense of ‘education’ in the ‘digital age?’ Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun had previously declared “education is broken” (Adams, C. et al, 2014. p. 202). Are MOOCs really the answer to the “broken” educational system? Are they floating in a “hype cycle” somewhere between “peak of inflated expectations” and the “trough of disillusionment.” Are they just “a different animal” (Breslow et al, 2013)? MOOCs are a still relatively new (since 2012) phenomenon, yet “the landscape of MOOCs is changing swiftly” (C. Adams, 2014, p. 212).

For me personally, a tentative assessment is that the majority of MOOCs may not necessarily constitute “education” ‘as usual’, but they do offer significant ‘learning’ opportunities that can be educative and potentially transformative. Therefore, I do not think they should be discounted. They may may threaten traditional educational norms, standards or institutions, but it seems that the “shake up” can only improve the deficiencies in the current educational systems at various levels on a global scale. They should be embraced for the learning value they provide for those learners that are inspired to ‘dip,”browse,”lurk,’ or complete the course. There is no ‘failure,’ there is only learning, depending on the learning needs of the learner. The movement towards SPOCs and other variants seem to also portend another positive trend towards the further democratization’ of education.

Exploration and immersion as a ‘virtual ethnographer’ in the Scandinavian Film and TV Culture MOOC gave me a new perspective on what it means to be a ‘digital learner.’ One the one hand, I was a MOOC student, on the other an ethnographer observing the MOOC. I was absorbing the content and visual style of ‘new wave,’ ‘avant garde’ Scandinavian directors, while learning through trial and error how to manipulate digital technologies to construct my representations of the MOOC learning environment. MOOCs offer tremendously exciting fresh research opportunities. Where is MOOC Research Headed

Alternatively, throughout the week, there was a “metacognitive facilitation of spontaneous thought processes” centered around the ScanFilmTV MOOC ‘under observation.’ I had to manage limited time available: doing the academic readings, viewing MOOC video lectures, taking quizzes, blogging, tweeting, commenting on peers’ and instructors ‘comments, constructing slides, finding a music score, troubleshooting various digital technologies, downloading, uploading, editing, pondering, questioning, re-examining, considering ethics, and so on…( and that was just Tuesday night).

“Perhaps it is only with the assistance of metacognition that we can make the best use of our mental meanderings and help our wandering mind find its way during those highly valuable, and possibly uniquely human, intellectual explorations” (Fox, K.C.R. & Christoff, K. 2014, p. 312).
Mind Wandering

Thus, MOOCs can also be viewed not only as a platform for providing particular disciplinary content, but they can also be instrumental in developing metacognitive skills, such as time management. Please see relevant paper below on “Building Engagement for MOOC Students” (Nawrot, I. Doucet, A. 2014). I think the challenges of managing and balancing work, life, leisure, and academic was a common, underlying theme that I picked up on in our own EDC online community this past week. Building Engagement of MOOC Students

EDC peer Jin’s exploration of the ‘meta-literacy’ MOOC prompted a tangential persistent ‘path of inquiry’ and interest on the keyword “meta” as a possible sequel to “post”- or “trans”- human.
Meta, as a prefix for – beyond, transcending, changed or involving change. Perhaps “human” even needs to be re-considered in terms of an emerging collective “meta-intelligence.” Dr. Peter Diamandis proclaims in blog post YouTube video down below that “humans are becoming themselves information technology.” (4:48 minute mark).

Adams, C. et al., 2014. A phenomenology of learning large: the tutorial sphere of xMOOC video lectures. Distance Education, 35(2), pp.1–15.

Baggaley, J., 2014. MOOCS: digesting the facts. Distance Education, 35(2), pp.159–163.

(Other References embedded with hyperlinks in blog post above).

Week Six Summary: Constructing the Micro-Ethnography


Typical screen shot of video lecture from ‘ScanFilmTV’ MOOC of lead instructor University of Copenhagen Professor Ib Bondebjerg

This past week I have been focused primarily on constructing my ‘Scandinavian Film and TV Culture’ (ScanFilmTV) MOOC micro-ethnography. I have found the processes of virtual ethnographic research (e.g., data collection, analysis, tool selection) to be more demanding, time-consuming, yet more interesting than I had anticipated. Constructing the micro-ethnography has distracted me from blogging activities, but it has also taken me down some divergent paths of learning and re-discovery.

For example, I did some Google and YouTube searches (aided by analytics based upon on my recent search preferences) on “ethnography” and “tools” that prompted me in a couple unexpected directions. I recalled undergraduate coursework I had done in anthropology, and the work of Napoleon Chagnon who did classical ethnographic fieldwork with the Yanomamo Indians in the Amazon rain forest 50 years ago. More recently, Chagnon wrote Noble Savages: My Life among Two Dangerous Tribes – The Yanomamo and the Anthropologists (2013), which I have read and highly recommend. In effect, Chagnon wrote an ‘ethnography on ethnographers.’
Yanomami Girl Yanomamo Girl

As it relates more directly to our EDC course and digital learning, I have sensed the ‘metacognitive’ linkages of ‘deep learning’ of the micro-ethnography project this past week whereby I am concurrently participating in the ScanFilmTV MOOC and learning about Scandinavian cultures as well distinct sub-national film cultures (Danish v. Swedish v. Norwegian), while also conducting ethnographic research on a sub-set of the ‘top forum posters’ within the MOOC, while also learning about the field of virtual ethnography, and additionally leveraging the resources and network connections of this EDC course. I have assumed an “active engagement” posture to the project by becoming an active participant in the MOOC. This approach has been informed by our C. Hine’s reading on “The virtual objects of ethnography” (2000). I have tried to invoke an “ethnographic sensitivity” (p. 60) to the ScanFilmTV MOOC online community that I have been studying. Hine notes that there are “many different ways of designing and conducting an ethnographic project”, where “choices and movements are made on the basis of strategic and often arbitrary decisions.” (p. 62) Importantly, he points out that “stopping the ethnography becomes a pragmatic decision.” (p. 64). I found this an astute insight (made in year 2000) that certainly resonated with my own decision-making about when I had sufficient data for this ‘micro-ethnography.’ Ethic considerations have also been at the forefront of my design that I will elaborate on in this final artifact. Hine, C. (2000) “The virtual objects of ethnography” from Hine, C. Virtual Ethnography, pp. 41-66, London: Sage.

I tried to adhere to the Alan Levine’s ( advice that digital storytelling is “not about the tools,” but I had to finally select and commit to a platform for constructing the micro-ethnography to move forward. I was impressed by the virtual ethnography by previous EDC student Steph Carr on using the tool This is currently Plan A for constructing the ScanFilmTV MOOC micro-ethnography. I spent considerable time ‘shopping around,’ reviewing the other platforms (Dipity, Spotify, Slideshare, etc..), but Slidespeech seems to accommodate the visual effect that I am trying to achieve which is to give the viewer of the micro-ethnography something of the ‘cinematic sense’ of the ScanFilmTV MOOC. At one point, I entertained producing a video to achieve this effect, mimicking the delivery of the ScanFilm TV MOOC, but I assessed that the production and logistics would prove to be too time-consuming. I estimate that am about half-way through my data collection of the study, and that I need at least about 15 hours more to complete the project: analyzing profiles of six more MOOC posters, writing the speaker notes of the PPT presentation that will be exported to Slidespeech. Steph Carr experienced some technical issues and challenges with the Slidespeech tool when she produced her (2013) ethnography, so I am formulating contingencies (Plan B) if Plan A goes awry.

Most of the Lifestream blog postings below were areas of interest that I happened to came across while researching certain aspects of constructing a virtual ethnography. They may not exhibit any particular coherent themes, but they generally reflect my interests and explorations this past week, including: the future of learning, MOOCs, the potential for leveraging digital technologies (e.g., the posting below about comparing national Constitutions), as well as the vulnerabilities (e.g., the posting below on the need for a Plan B for the Internet). The Chimps v. Humans posting below recalls earlier EDC reflections on the human-technology binary, about what it means to be human, but in case, the quandary is inter-species presaging the feasibility of a future Planet of Apes scenario.

I recommend that EDC peers take a look at the UK Government Report at link below on “Maturing of the MOOC.”


I offer some initial, tentative observations on MOOCs. These observations have to do with what might be described as the ‘sociality’ of the MOOC learning environment. These observations are really tangential to my primary micro-ethnographic research question, but I thought they were interesting each to blog about with EDC course peers, and they may ultimately inform my final ethnographic findings. I am now at about the midpoint of my chosen MOOC – Coursera Scandinavian Film & TV Culture. One observation is that there was a flurry of enthusiasm and posting activity early in the course, but it was mostly focused on self-introductions. The “Getting to Know You” Thread is by far the forum with the most posts with: 148 posts, 1748 views. The course organizers encouraged video introductions and I am still reviewing these selectively to assess how the learner’s approached it. But, my initial impression is that many MOOC learners may be just as interested in ‘belonging’ to a kindred ‘community’ of people with similar interests as they are in learning about the course content. The posts, comments, and threads related to the course content continue now in week 3, but the volume is significantly less than the early days of the course. The second most postings were responses to an early thread “What is your favorite Scandinavian Film or TV Series”? which has 126 posts, 719 views. This is a generic question which many learners answered early during the first week of the course, and is still receiving occasional new posts. Subsequent discussion question have received much less attention with generally fewer than about a dozen or so learners engaging in more substantive exchanges based on the course content.

A second example of ‘sociality’ in my subject MOOC is that one learner posts concerned wishes for the “peace, safety and continued free speech” to her new Danish friends and colleagues in light of the shootings in Copenhagen this past week. While I certainly share these sentiments for Danish people, it impressed me that the discussion was being used in this case more for as ‘bulletin board’ or ‘chat’ function, rather than focusing on the academic content of the course. Again, I am not judging or critiquing that usage, just observing that the MOOC may serve other ‘sociality’ purposes than learning about the course material.
Emerging patterns in MOOCs
Emerging patterns in MOOCs

Week 5 – Deep in the MOOC of Things


It is end of Week 2 of the Scandinavian Film and TV (ScanFilmTV) Culture that I have chosen for conducting the micro-ethnographic study. I have spent considerable time this past week studying about the Week 2b ScanFilmTV topic on Dogme 95 hoping that there would be enough data to study, but that has not proven to be the case. I immersed myself in researching the topic, spent time watching two Lars Von Trier films, Dogville and Antichrist, and doing a few prescribed readings, so that I could converse intelligently with other participants in the MOOC. I posted five comments in the discussion forum in respond to the Question: “What, if anything, has Dogma 95 contributed to contemporary cinema in terms of both style, content or other matters?.” Halfway through the week, I realized that I was experiencing a ‘role conflict’ between my role as a MOOC participant and that of an ethnographer. I found that I was getting so much into the subject matter, as a participant, of studying the Dogme 95 film movement and the influence of Lars von Trier as the main provocateur that I lost sight that was not the primary aim of my ethnographic research. Rather, my objective was to observe the participants in the MOOC.

I posted a few related Tweets below in this Lifestream blog throughout the week as I was studying more about Kozinet’s influence on this field, of what has been called “netnography.” Some of the Netnography video materials that I posted below were particularly helpful in enabling me to re-orient on the task of ethnographic observation of the ScanFilmTV MOOC. A couple EDC peers seemed to appreciate these resources. At this juncture, based upon my initial assessment of the data available, I am inclined to investigate the ‘forum reputations’ of the ‘top forum posters’ in this specific MOOC, as the focus for the micro-ethnography. This approach is quite different from my point of departure last week when I was very focused on the specific topic of Dogme 95 and Lars von Trier. It is not that I am a major fan of von Trier, but I projected that this controversial director would generate consideration discussion on his work and influence.

I continue to have ethical concerns about how to manage this project. I have not explicitly requested permission to observe this MOOC from the organizers because on the one hand, I thought that there might be some resistance to allowing this type of research, and on the other hand, I thought that I could manage to find a way to handle the data considerately and not intentionally violate the privacy or anonymity of the other participants. The further that I get into the study, could more readily understand the Challenges to Research in MOOCs (Fournier,H. Kup,R. & Durand,G. 2014) what the ethical implications might be (Marshall, S., 2014). Also, my shift in the direction of the research, from participation to observation, has prompted to re-think the packaging and delivery of the research; noting Alan Levine’s warning that it (the research) is not about the tools, from his 50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story website.

Permission to Use Materials – Coursera

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dogme 95 red list

The occasional reader of this blog may wonder what “Dogme 95″ is, and what it has to do with a blog about education and digital culture. (‘Dogme’ is Danish for ‘Dogma,’ and it appears alternatively as either spelling. I adhere to the native spelling. The film movement was started in 1995, hence 95). The Dogme 95 rules, the list of 10 principles (the “vows of chastity”) that the ‘brotherhood’ of rebel Scandinavian film makers imposed upon themselves received worldwide acclaim for a variety of ‘avant garde’ films produced over the past 30 years since 1995. The impetus for this week’s interest in exploring Dogme 95 is a assignment to conduct a ‘micro-ethnography’ of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). I have chosen to study the MOOC on Scandinavian Film and Culture. I am collecting selected related materials on Dogme 95 in the ‘MOOC Ethnography’ page above. One of the aspects of studying Dogme 95 that appears to me, as it relates to digital cultures, is that this ‘genre’ or ‘wave’ of alternative film making forces one to consider the nature of reality and humanity, and how we view and experience the world. Digital technologies, social media, augmented reality are also focusing to consider how we view and experience the world in new ways.



This week was consumed with initial preparations for ethnographic ‘fieldwork’ on the MOOC on Scandinavian Film and TV Culture. It is a five-week course which coincides conveniently with the time span of the EDC ethnographic learning activity. As a participant in the course, I viewed the six, 10-minute video lectures on the Week 1 syllabus that focused on the main trends of Scandinavian cinema, early age of Scandinavian cinema, and the influence of Swedish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, in particular. This immersion into the course as a participant gave me some insights into the requirements of the course and the discussions amongst the learners in the course. I also spent some exploring different digital tools to represent the ethnographic research. I registered for a few different tools recommended at:, but I have not settled on any one in particular to use at this juncture. Initially, I was looking at timeline tools, but after experimenting with them I don’t feel that they will useful for the representation that I have in mind. This lead me to more of a Twitter analytics methodology which is represented by this Tweet Archivist link, with key words ‘Scandinavian Film”:

I will try to conform to Dr. Jeremy Knox’s advice to narrowly focus the scope of this ‘micro’-ethnography. Currently, my approach is to focus on the students’ discussion forum comments and threads related to the Danish director Lars Von Trier, and perhaps just one of his films (e.g., Dogville, Melancholia), or the Dogma 95 movement. I have set up key word searches on these parameters with Tweet Archivist. Based on initial data sets, I’ll determine how to refine the scope of the research even further, while also continuing to explore and experiment the digital representation tools; probably focusing more on slideshow type tools.


Force Majeure (Swedish: Turist) is a 2014 Swedish drama film directed by Ruben Östlund.