Please allow me to promote my own little experimental course, being offered this semester at Concordia University in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The title of the course is “Cyberspace Ethnography,” and I plan to revise and add it to the regular curriculum as a cross-listed Anthropology & Sociology course.
This is a new and fairly experimental course of mine, inspired in very large part by my colleague, Christine Hine, in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey. I am also proud to say that I have worked with Christine by contributing to her edited volume, Virtual Methods, and I was invited by her to present at a seminar she organized on ethnographic research online sponsored by the ESRC and hosted at Brunel University.
The focus of the coursework involves ethnographic research conducted in online environments, virtual communities, and so forth, with students blogging about their research, their readings, and their thoughts on class discussions and the research process. There are no exams, and the great majority of the readings are from open access and online sources.
As I state at the opening of the course website:
“This course on ethnographic approaches to the study of cyberspace interactions is being offered as an experiment, one whose outcomes and future shapes will largely be determined by students such as yourselves. The current focus of the course is on online situations as such, demanding an immersion in the interactive action, thus treating cyberspace as not just a mere appendage or extension of “the real world”. The aim of the course is not to try to fit the Internet into what we already know, or to ask students to uncritically apply established theories and established ethnographic methods to this still relatively new set of arenas for social interaction and cultural representation. The aim is not to uphold a discipline, to find new bottles for old wine. Instead the aim is to ask of what usefulness the discipline can be in answering new problems, new situations, and new questions. Students should let their imaginations run.”