Social Computing Workshop Notes

Digital ethnography is a part of this legacy. It is often defined more in terms of material culture rather than traditional ethnography. Why might that be?
>>>new discipline so people give different names, lots of perspectives and names
>>>too diverse
>>>two main sections of it
>>> why do we need to brand it, anthropology is already so segmented
>>> one way that you can simply do ethnography, teh tools themselves
>>> is there a need to separate it off, doesnt taht marginalise it
What are attainable goals for digital ethnography?
>>> what are we trying to achieve in this ethnographic space, one way to think
>>> get the same experience
>>> to understand that society you must live like that society
>>> more than just data collection
>>> using yourself as an instrument
>>> have to enact ‘stuff’ , learn how people do it, learn how they learn
>>> why does using ourselves as a tool, help us achieve our goals
>>> understand culture on its own terms
>>> then can comparison between ourselves and ‘them’
>>> not just you learning stuff, but also forcing them to analyse teh same data you are and learning from participating with them
>>> which gives you a standpoint from which to reflexviely explore your own parameters
>>> participant obsrevationm is part of a holistic view
>>> in which your not filtering out, but actaully take part in teh system, react, refelct and critically examine teh system all at one time
To answer that question we have to consider what ‘conventional’ ethnography consists of.
1. project the culture in terms of the culture
>>> not just into our society, but also into other societies
2. comparability
3. holistic
4. relation between more specialised and general ethnography — ethnography as a social enterprise rather than and individual one…
What might the digital version of these consist of?
>>>knowing the actual background of them? how would you get around this
>>> verifying who you are? they dont trust you
>>> build trust up over time, establish a rapport? is that different than cultivating them online
>>> once people get to know you are studying them, they suddenly role-play, but eventually you wear them down.
>>> you tend to get the village loser hanging out with you because no one else wants to hang out with them, then you have a temporary ethical
>>> always run into some good hoaxers
>>> chinese rooms, and temporality
>>> industrial anthropologists are there to tell people things tehy dont want to hear, firefighters
>>> do we think that people present their ‘true’ selves at work, how does that differ from the web?
>>> different about online is its not happening in real time, online, text tends to be mixture of asynchronous and synchronous
>>> we cannot claim that something online is that person, but then can we really do that offline anywasy, do people not have personas
>>> ethnography: not about what people are like, but what options, sources and availabilities are there for people in living with other people. This leads to lots of personas, so we end being; leaeders,. two-faced, mothers, business men etc…
>>> social interactions are observabel in a sense that tehy haev toc oem to eth surface
>>> not taht peolpe are littel robots, but tehy have motivations, objectives tehyare tryin to meet, these are peronsla, might be partiucally cultuyrally contsructred, but might not, might be more complex, wnating rwspetc opf t=others
>>> not taht people are following script, its taht you dont leave an openeing and people are stuck with you doing it that way.
if you are follwoing a scvript you are at a o-level skill set
>>> first, how do people organise themsleves into groups, notr like normal, a family
>>> dont need to know day to day sustencance, in office site or web site (unless you wnat credit ratings fro a 1000 a year)
>> then look at micro-oragnization, is it on cultural values, status etc interaction
>>> find the line of argumnet, what assumptions tehya re making (whether rationalm or not)
>>> how going to deal with mobility, go beyond one locatrion, what are you going tos study
>>> undertanding web cultures can really explain teh divide between ‘site’ (place) and communication in time.
1. Should network sited ethnography be only in terms of network sited groups
>>> good question
>>> not necessairily, vary by your opportunities and availability
2. Holistic orientation may be more important
>>> everything efefcts everything else,so if you chaneg something everything else chnages
>>> weak holism is taking into consdieration as many factors as posisble
>>> practical holism is inbetween
>>> have channels that allow different communication, learn and participate in a moreliited range of thinsg
>>> dealing with asychronous, positive becaus epeople leave trails, but disadavntge is our sjills are synchronous
>>> twitter story where people follow scripts
>>> holistic means just being open
>>> ethnographer, is you listen an dthen press people to think further
>>> informed consent is about conduct not legality
>>>anthropology is ususally intrinsically collaborative because it is co-creating a story

stigmergic anthropology

edward t hall
proximics -the silent language: body language
the hidden dimension – perception of space organised people
the dance of life – differences in time perceptions
beyond culture: elaborates the above in a more anthropological way
the built environment + time + proximics = stigmergic quality
if people figure out something useful about something tends to gather more people
distinct quality of online communication: asychronous (no specific time frame to it, time is relative feature)
stigmergic: process of following a trail of signs
locating, recording, analysis of trails
breaking down of templates and the localised control of web templates
myths see something changing or want t something to change
comparison – online
look for recurring themes
sort out how many people (whether its an obessessed person or otherwise)
so see what core interests of the group
question at right level to deal with
  • Download slide notes here: Workshop_Geomedia_6
  • half words are only used once in general in a piece of writing, but in visualization the object is to stand back a bit to aggregate and see larger patterns
  • logarithmic: how the middle behaves is very important, so it removes the extremes
  • distorting data in a known way
  • tagcloud: visualising indexing, searching, union and intersection of terms
  • gather evidence that things are similar or distinct
  • what is the validity of these tag clouds
  • they are also numeric
  • how o lie with statistics
  • in visualizations are we injecting meaning or are we expressing meaning
  • not just bringing information but transforming it
  • distributing method, capacity rather than just content
  • therefore less enclosure
  • public anthropology: if people are not engageble then that anthropology is not appropriate, more participatory
  • eroding and soften of the power of expertise

geomedia: brings together and relates much media to space and time


> problem is removal of anonymity through aggregation of data, in comparison to usual publishing

> aggregation looks like its including lots of things, but with lot less intent behind it than an ethnography

e.g. employment statistics reduce out the part-time workers and not including people who are not actively looking for work


I was initially going to start with the question of how is anthropology forming on the web. I would imagine this project as starting with an area of focus that could be then replicated for other areas of anthropology. I would compare this such as how much is academic publication, how much is blogging etc…

I then decided that perhaps I should instead apply this idea to a possible area of study, as a way of garnering the web-form of a community before doing f2f fieldwork with them. As a preliminary step I did an advance google search to determine how many results where produced from the specific geographical area that f2f research would theoretically be conducted in; Antartica. This gave me 169 results in the past 5 years. I would imagine the result as being able to analyze, categorize and map out what is going on in these 169 results for example.

I am undecided on the above and now have a possible additional idea, which would be to re-analyze and re-examine the tabled data at the end of Pascal Boyer’s recent article:

This would be because I am gathering a reply fro myself to his article, but thought it might be interesting to complement this with a social computing interpretation of his results that would give a different result. But this is probably off topic.

READING: Sharing Knowledge: How the Internet is Fueling Change in Anthropology