Onboarding seminar documentation: Online ethnography with Edgeryders

This wiki documents the OpenEthnographer onboarding workshop. This workshop was held on Fri, 2014-10-24 by Inga Popovaite as part of the Edgeryders’ LOTE4 conference. It covered the current state, future development and collaboration options of the Open Ethnographer project.

You can also find Inga’s slides of the session online.


@Inga_Popovaite, @Matthias, @Noemi, @Rémy, @La_Gaia, @elviapw, @Alberto, Leo Dearden, Anthony, Hazem Adel, Kat Austen, Kei Kreutler, Sam Muirhead.

Participants also gathered these session notes, afterwards edited by @Alberto, @Nadia and @Matthias.

Session Contents

  1. What ethnographers do.
  2. Walkthrough of Open Ethnographer Prototype.
  3. Testing the Open Ethnographer software.


Ethnography is done today not like a century ago: now it’s also “online ethnograpy”. Ethnography provides, for example, a way to analyse thousands of comments on edgeryders.eu.

What kind of data?

There is a difference between qualitative and quantitative data – ethnography deals with the former one. Qualitative data is maybe harder to analyse, but closer to finding meaning.

Case Study: Spot the Future

Edgeryders did online ethnography during the “Spot the Future” project, analysing contributions from 128 community members.

An ethnographer on Edgeryders is a user that has been assigned the role of “content manager” able to edit content to work with. The steps of the ethnographer’s work include:

  • preliminary reading: this results in creating of a list of codes ("tags")
  • coding: assigning codes ("tags") to bits of text
  • analysis: for each tag, you can then get all pieces of content associated with it in a piece of software called a "quotation manager". It allows you to read vertically instead or horizontally.

Dealing with ethical problems

Is it enough to have a 4 page legal disclaimer that subjects of ethnographic research will read and accept? Probably not. The session concludes that:

“TOS are not adequate. We need a better way to let people participating in online ethnography give us their consent.” (by @la_gaia)

If you are dealing with a public forum, then part of the responsibility for erroneously posting and getting their data published is of the user. For further reference on ethics and big data, refer to the documentation of a previous workshop with Nationale DenkTank (Netherlands).

Tools for Stewarding of Digital Assets

  • Self-hosting. Problem: digital data does not contribute to public benefit if it is not open. Good data stewards do not push them onto proprietary platforms, where they get sequestered both technologically (no APIs, or severely limited ones) and legally (no open licenses).  OpenEthnographer allows better stewardship, because it stores coding (metadata) in the same place as the data are. This allows (encourages, in fact) the stewards of the data to steward the metadata too. Technically, it is easier; ethically, it gives respondents more control, because, by taking away their data, they also destroy the metadata.  
  • Self-selection. Most controversy about privacy in online ethnography disappears once ethnographers decide not to mine Facebook, but instead to use data coming from platforms like Edgeryders, whose social contract explicitly incorporates aggregation and reorganization of users' contributions, and whose users select themselves to participate in the conversation as citizen experts.
  • Openness. Making the ethnographic data open means any research conclusion can be challenged on the basis of the same data. It also means inviting other researchers and even the general public to contribute their own research and conclusions.
1 Like

Very useful session

Hi all and thanks for helping document, is there a way you could upload the slides @Inga_Popovaite? I very much look forward to be part of the project and set up clear community communication about it, help devise a consent form for newcomers into the community, if we all agree it’s needed, and help with whatever is needed.

Ping me when you start working and maybe do a hangout?

Yes to a hangout

I am starting with the OpenEthnographer software design etc. right now, and need to better understand some requirements by Inga (as the paradigmatic future user). So when you folks plan a hangout, just tell me, I’d like to join.

Let’s do it!

Hangout would be great. This week maybe?

Slides are here.

How’s tomorrow?

Thursday afternoon at 5pm cet? In the usual hangout space we use for community calls? Google Workspace Updates: New community features for Google Chat and an update on Currents

Any other time would suit me… same for Friday morning.

Please invite me

And also @Kira (or rather her partner Irene – considering an ethnography of failure in social innovation).


Up for Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

would like to contribute

but prefer the Friday morning slot as will be most like be at a conference in the afternoon on thursday:  http://newbabylonrevisited.net/acute

ok Friday ?

Friday at 10 am cet? @Inga_Popovaite works?

For me it works

Fri 10:00 am CET is fine for me, and so is whatever else Friday / Thursday. See you!

Friday 10 CET works for me

See you all then!

Can I put in a request for report format?

Hi Inga and all,

So I’ve been thinking about how we do this ethnographic report on Stewardship so the document produced is useful to everyone who put in time to try to understand the topic: https://edgeryders.eu/en/edgeryders-admin/the-edgeryders-guide-to-improving-reality-work-in.

If the ethnographic report can follow this format (answer the 5 questions) this would be great. What do you think?


I like it. Structured and clear. Shall we keep the same 5 questions?

yes i think so

Maybe we reflect on which things depend on very specific conditions and which are more generally applicablet