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(**This lab will be the basis for the second qualitative methods lab and the subsequent write up**)
Your task is to complete a mini (1 to 2-hour) participant observation in an online setting. This includes selecting an observational setting, preparing “field notes”, coding them, and writing up a short “analytical memo” with your preliminary results. You will not have time to ca
y out a fully developed (or even partially developed) digital ethnography. However, you will get some experience with the primary methods employed in online participant observation. In a real research situation, this method requires extended and intensive participant-observation online.
The linked video shows a concise and detailed explanation of conducting this sort of research (note: his focus is specifically on content analysis, but his explanation is incredibly sound and applies to this sort of research more generally)
The attached readings can help you to better understand how to conduct an online participant observation
· Côté, Isabelle. 2013. “Fieldwork in the Era of Social Media: Opportunities and Challenges.” Political Science and Politics 46(3):615-619
· Hine, Christine. 2008. “Virtual Ethnography: Modes, Varieties, Affordances.” Pp XXXXXXXXXXin The SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods, edited by N. Fielding, R. M. Lee, and G. Blank. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

· Sample student coding (this shows the coding that has been completed)

The following is a summary of the steps involved to complete the project.

1. Select a field setting
a. Select an online space where there is a flow of community interaction, i.e. many people can post and respond as if in community conversation. Interactive message boards, Facebook communities, or LinkedIn communities work well for this assignment.
. Establish a time for concentrated observation. Plan to spend at least one to two hours in intense observation (i.e., turn off all extraneous electronics and do not try to complete other tasks while doing your observation). When entering the “field,” i.e. your online community of study, remember to check your assumptions at the door. Try not to prove pre-existing theories you have about the context and activities happening (you will quickly see how hard this is!). Remember that an ethnographer’s research questions should arise in the process of observation, as do answers to research questions.

2. Observe what is happening
a. Observers try to uncover and record the unspoken common-sense assumptions of the group or setting that they are studying. Look for immediate and local meanings which appear to matter to the people you are observing.
. Collect all the data that you can. This may be via screenshots or recording of very detailed notes. 

c. Reflect on your own actions. As Dorinne Kondo XXXXXXXXXXwrites, ethnographers alter themselves in order to fit into their contexts as unobtrusive observers and as participant observers. How much do you have to adapt yourself in order to learn about the context, culture, and interactions that you are studying? 

d. Try to find categories and terms that the participants themselves use. How do these concepts organize the activities that you are observing?
e. Systematically look for discrepant cases or anomalies (deviant cases). If most people seem to be doing or discussing an activity the same way, notice who does it differently. What might account for that?
f. If you plan to
eak up observations, try various kinds of observations. Be a silent observer one time and talk to people the next.

3. (OPTIONAL) Participate in the online community that you chose. Use what you have read about online participant-observation to participate at least once in the online community. Remember the ethics of conducting research when you are posting, i.e. introduce yourself as a researcher or be prepared to explain in your fieldnotes why you could not introduce yourself as a researcher, etc.

4. Keep a “journal” or field notes of your observations. These can be freely written notes, or typed up, but they should cover everything you see/observe, without judgment or evaluation (this is tricky and something that will improve with practice and training). Make sure to also keep a computer file of all data collected via screenshots or other means.

5. Devote time to “filling-in” your notes when you exit the “field.” This will be important for keeping record of any observations you did not have time to adequately record in the “field” – it can include filling in short-hand, recalling details, or describing space and interactions you observed. Experienced ethnographers recommend planning to spend at least 30 minutes on this task for every two hours in the field. You will be surprised at how much you recall that you were not able to jot down while also observing and collecting online data. Experienced researchers also recommend completing this task on the same day as your observations.

    DELIVERABLE (what you will submit to the professor)
Upload a copy of your “field” notes and all of your digital data that has been collected, this may include screenshots, images, your written observations, etc. (I will cover how to "code” your initial observations in a
ief video as part of the Chapter 10 lectures -- they should not be submitted here)
(DO NOT DO #6 AND #7!) It’s for you to see if your work is able to answer the questions below. Only focus #1-5)
6. Code your initial observations. Coding involves reviewing your notes and data line by line, and image by image, as you begin to order patterns. Some people prefer to start coding with no preconceptions and “seeing” the patterns as they emerge. Others prefer having a research question or topic/issue in mind and coding for data that seems relevant. For a gender studies course, you might think about coding for “gender,” but even this is very
oad. Keep a running tab for all the codes you develop – you might have dozens!

7. After coding has been exhausted, begin a new step of thinking about what your codes reveal – do you see ways of analytically linking or grouping codes? Do distinct events share similar codes? If so, you are ready for “re-coding,” or developing your meta-na
ative. Try to fit codes together that seem related or linked, and then re-examine your field notes to see if they reveal something new.
This link below is an example of how it could possibly be done but do not copy.
Answered Same Day May 06, 2024


Parul answered on May 07 2024
4 Votes
For my online participant observation, I chose to immerse myself in the "Mental Health Wa
iors" Facebook group, a community known for its active discussions and support related to mental health issues. I dedicated a focused 2-hour period to observe the dynamics and interactions within the group.
During my observation, I noticed several common themes and patterns. Members frequently shared personal coping strategies, ranging from mindfulness techniques to creative outlets like art therapy. The discussions often revolved around experiences with mental health treatments, with some members...

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