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A Mini Mini Ethnography

Since I first taught methods in graduate school, students have consistently requested more hands-on experiences prior to their senior research projects. In response, I have developed a series of labs, discussion issues, and field work exercises that can be integrated into a variety of social science research methods courses. Drawing on Wolcott’s (1990) use of the term “micro-ethnography,” I began calling this qualitative unit a “mini mini ethnography.” This series is designed to encourage discussion of qualitative research concepts, implementation of multiple qualitative methods, and skills development by building on early work. By integrating these lab exercises and outside field work into a lecture and discussion schedule, the instructor can introduce major concepts and reinforce their importance throughout the term. Unlike observation or interview exercises often utilized in methods courses, this approach gives students a much more realistic glimpse of field work; a glimpse that demands a high level of organization and continual engagement with concepts and research questions as they evolve. At the same time, students can improve upon their early missteps for the final portfolio and produce a project appropriate for any student symposium.

Digital Ethnography of Facebook

Despite the presence of Web 2.0 applications (i.e., all the interactive sites and “stuff” in the online world), there are divergent definitions and neologisms of digital ethnography and limited academic studies of digital ethnography as method. In this assignment, we will explore the method of digital ethnography by doing digital ethnography in a digital space. We will begin with a mid-range definition that explains digital ethnography as the process and method of doing ethnographic research in a digital space of “complex entangled electronic bites mixed with text, video, images, and social relations and behavior patterns” (Case 2011: 1). From this starting point, we jump into an applied exercise of practicing our ethnographic gaze (e.g., as “lurkers” and “participant experiencers”) into the digital spaces of a widely popular SNS (social networking site), Facebook. We will collect and analyze digital data by using traditional and emerging digital tools; and we will extend our examination to, for example, ethical standards and dilemmas connected to digital ethnography. This assignment is a good place to begin to seek answers and generate more questions about digital ethnography.

Observation Project

This project to be completed over the course of the session gives students experience doing social research. Students choose a topic and complete a naturalistic observation, participant observation, or break a norm. They write a paper and produce a poster describing their experience. A scaffolding naturalistic observation and gallery walk assignment are also included as well as the grading criteria used for the paper and poster.