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.
- What ethnographers do.
- Walkthrough of Open Ethnographer Prototype.
- 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.