This is a helpful talk to watch before you begin this fieldwork assignment. It’s called 13 lessons in Digital Anthropology.
How we interact with one another using Media, Social Media, the Web, various applications like Facebook SnapChat, Tinder, is an area of investigation for social anthropologists today.
This kind of field research falls under the category of Cyber Anthropology or Digital Anthropology. One of my favorite anthropologists, Clifford Geertz is the father of this field in a very broad sense, however, Dell Hymes is the champion of communicative studies and this aspect of sociolinguistics in particular. At the heart of this field is the notion that Culture is expressed through Language and Language is a system of Cultural Behaviors concerned with what individuals know about appropriate patterns of language use in their community.
Hymes gave us the following framework for studying what he called Speech communities. In digital anthropology, we can see a site, game, social media, as speech communities. As you look at this list think of ways that the internet embodies the qualities of speech communities.
Start by identifying the SPEECH COMMUNITY (where ever you see the word Speech you can insert the term Communicative, for example, the Communicative Community) on whom we are focussing our study.
We identify the SPEECH EVENT, the activity or aspect of activities
We also identify the SPEECH SITUATION, the venue or the context for the speech event.
So, for example, a conversation at a party breaks down as
the Communicative Event = conversation
the Communicative Situation = the party
Or for our study of the Digital, it may be a segment of an online “game” a segment of a video game, an individual’s facebook posts and comments, someone’s tweets and the comments,
so the communicative event= post and comment
communicative situation = facebook page
Next, for our Communicative COMMUNITY, we identify their Communicative repertoire – this means the communicative resources at the individuals’ disposal ie, the language styles and variations available to them. So if there is more than one language used, if there is a dialect used, if there are symbols, abbreviations, slang, vocabulary or symbols specific to the platform being studied, identify all of these.
And finally we identify the Domain of Use, This is the particulars of the context.
Each Communicative event is made up of components that can be summarized through the acronym S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. these are the content and context of the event.
You should complete this list for your fieldwork study with many details
S – SETTING – time, place, physical aspects of the setting, for example, the arrangement of the furniture, the characteristics of the room so for us in digital anthropology this would mean identifying the nature of the site, the arrangement of the encounters, etc.
P – PARTICIPANT IDENTITY – the age, sex, status, and the relationship of the participants
E – END – In this context, the end means the purpose or reason for the speech event it also refers to the individual’s goals for the speech event. So here you would give a general purpose and then each individual’s purpose as stated by the individual and or as implied. If it is implied you should explain why.
A – ACT SEQUENCE – how speech acts are organized and topics addressed in other words the norm of interaction in this venue
K – KEY – this is the tone or manner of what is said or written so be specific give details and explain why you are identifying the tone and manner in a specific way
I – INSTRUMENTALITIES – or linguistic code, dialect, variety, spoken or written what are the features of the communication are emojis used? slang? no punctuation? etc….
N – NORM – the standard socio-cultural rules of interaction and interpretation this seems redundant for us because we have identified these for our study in the section Act sequence, what you can highlight her are the norms about the use of grammar, phrases, symbols,and emojis where as in the Act Sequence section you are highlighting rules of sharing, who goes first, how do we create conversation threads etc…..
G – GENRE – the type of event, for example, a lecture, a poem, a letter, so for the digital study this would be an email, a text, a post and so on.
These features are interrelated and some may be more important than others in a particular event. But you should be able to identify most if not all of them.
There are two types of communicative ethnographic studies first those that prioritize a descriptive analysis have a general aim of discerning, identifying and explaining, which communicative acts or codes are important to different groups or individuals. These studies will focus on:
- Discerning what types of meanings groups apply to different communicative events
- Discerning how group members learn these codes that are important to the group
For these studies, the researcher may gather information through introspection (studying one’s own digital communicative event) but even better is for the researcher to conduct informal interviews of others and make observations. You are required to conduct this type of research.
You are required to make observations and include a brief interview.
Your complete fieldwork assignment will be 3 pages long and include details about the communication community you study YOu can choose from any digital platform and any type of exchange. So you can observe a facebook page for a set period of time, or engage in a video, or interactive game, or snapchat or twitter page, or an online site.
So, for example, you can document and share the norms that you observe within a one half hour period on an interactive site?
Our goal is to have actual data, not just our expectations or thoughts about what might be happening but rather what we are actually observing happening.
You are a participant observer in this fieldwork.
You can identify yourself as such at the outset of your study.
We are thinking very broadly so you may choose just about any app platform social media site etc that you would like.
You should include a final paragraph that demonstrates some analysis of your data and questions and thoughts raised by your participant observation and interview.
Just for your information – The second type of study is to do a cross-cultural comparison. This requires a great deal of data collection from numerous communities and the researcher familiarizes him/herself with all of this data and then embarks on a comparative analysis of the various communities and the types of communicative events.
You will not do this kind of study.
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