Digital Fieldwork 1

Please post your reflections on the fieldwork activities to the comments on this page.

This session took place on Feb 5th 3-4pm GMT
Facilitators: Matt Lingard, David White

Recording of this session:

Slides from the session:

Slides as PDF

Creative Commons Licence Katharine Dwyer

The Digital Fieldwork Activities

Below are a  number of experiential online digital activities which are designed to give you an insight into the pros and cons of some of the more ‘open’ forms of digital practice. It’s best to think of these activities as a form of online fieldwork you will be reporting back on. Just pick one of the activities and play with it over the next few weeks (feel free to make it work for you). Most of the activities are designed to be undertaken for a few minutes each day or every so often.  Pick an activity that makes you a little anxious (in a good way) but don’t push it too far if you aren’t happy.

Reporting back could be as simple as a couple of sentences and maybe a link in the comments on this page or you might want to write something longer and link to it from a comment (you could also post on the #teachcomUAL if that seem appropriate).

Part of the value of the Digital Fieldwork is in sharing your thoughts and reflections.  We will be reviewing the activities and your experiences in the next Digital Fieldwork session on the 26th Feb.

2min intro to Digital Fieldwork Activities

Reflecting on the process is as important as reporting on what you achieved (or didn’t achieve). Do take note of how the activity made you feel in terms of your learning, and your identity (individual and/or group). Consider how your students might respond to these activities and what learning or ‘becoming’ might result from taking part.

1. Appear online (easy-ish)

If you don’t have any kind of online presence then now is your chance to get started in a thoughtful way. Review the options (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogging etc) and start up a profile. Be aware of how the process makes you feel and the basis (pragmatic and emotional) for your choices. It’s worth noting that students have to go through a similar process when deciding how to appear as a proto-professional in their discipline area.

Aspects to consider:

  1. Will this be a personal, professional or a hybrid profile?
  2. How will you decide which online space is best for you?
  3. Who are you trying to connect with and on what basis?
  4. Where are you going to post your thoughts on the process?

Intro for activities two and three

2. Make, curate and share (easy-ish)

Create a short series of artifacts which explore the idea of ‘digital craft’ (see “Magic box: craft and the computer‘ from David Crow). These could be ‘born digital’ artifacts, analogue artifacts which have been captured to share digitally or hybrid artifacts which cross the digital/analogue boundary. They might explore a theme or tell a story.

Curate your artifacts in an open digital space (for example, Instagram, a blog, Padlet, Flickr etc) with appropriate commentary then see if you can get people to engage with the work. – Post a link to your work into the comments below.

Aspects to consider:

  1. What artifacts are you going to create and how do they explore the ides of digital craft?
  2. Where are you going to curate your artifacts openly online?
  3. How can you promote the work online?

3. Contribute to discourse/knowledge

A: Get involved in a ‘public’ dialogue and capture the process. This could be commenting on lively blog posts, contributing to a Twitter hashtag discussion (a bit tricky) (e.g. or for a range (check the chats are still current))

B: …or journalistic sites such as the comments in an online newspaper. (easy-ish)

C: …or create or edit a Wikipedia article or articles and document the process.(link to getting started in wikipedia material: (quite difficult)

Aspects to consider:

  1. How will you capture the process?
  2. Do you want to post as yourself or under an alias?
  3. Where are you going to post your thoughts on the process? (could be in the comments below)

    Intro to activities four, five and six

4. Try on a new identity

Create an ‘alternate’ identity in a Social Media platform and post/engage via this identity for a week or more. Capture the process and your reflections on the process. (technically quite easy if you have a spare/alternate email address)

Aspects to consider:

  1. What platform(s) will this work well in?
  2. How will you capture the process?
  3. How often will you post/engage to make this process meaningful?
  4. Where are you going to post your thoughts on the process? (could be in the comments below)

5. Fake-out a Social Media platform

Social Media platforms such as Facebook are based on gathering and trading data. They want to connect you to people/products/companies/ideas which you are likely to engage with. One way to make this process more visible is to create an alternate profile which is very different to your ‘real’ persona and see what the Social Media platform throws at you. For example, a colleague has a set up a profile of a 109 year old woman (who is now 117) in Facebook. (technically quite easy if you have a spare/alternate email address)

Aspects to consider:

  1. What platform(s) will this work well in?
  2. How will you capture the process?
  3. How often are you going to engage in this between now and reporting back?
  4. Where are you going to post your thoughts on the process? (could be in the comments below)

6. Expand your horizons

Actively follow and engage with individuals or groups in Social Media that you would not normally connect with. This is likely to be people from different fields of study or with differing interests, perspectives or politics. Capture the process and your reflections on the process.(technically quite easy if you already use social media – you might want to combine this with ‘Try on an new identity’ to keep your ‘real’ digital profile tidy)

Aspects to consider

  1. Will you use an existing profile, or create a new one?
  2. What platform(s) will this work well in?
  3. How will you capture the process?
  4. How often are you going to engage with this to get the most out of it?
  5. Where are you going to post your thoughts on the process? (could be in the comments below)


18 Replies to “Digital Fieldwork 1”

  1. I was hoping to make and curate a digital artefact – but think I’m running out of time… So my backup activity was 3) Contribute to knowledge…
    And i decided to take part in an online chat – with #LTHEchat, Weds evenings on Twitter.
    I did not have to work out how to curate my contribution cos the #LTHEchat folk did it for me – and wakelet here:
    I participated as @Danceswithcloud – check it out if you want to follow my Tweets.
    This was not the first time I participated in this Chat – but it has been many many months – so it was good coming back to it afresh.
    I noticed this time that a couple of the big hitters who normally attend were not there. uch as they were missed – I felt that it added a whole new level of democracy and democratic participation to the conversation. There was no sense that special participation status was conveyed by one of the great ones liking or retweeting one of your responses – or conversing with you.
    Even without that dimension – it is really interesting how a desire to join in a conversation – also becomes side-line exciting by seeing how your ‘notifications’ rack up – showing whether and how often you are liked/retweeted/conversed with .
    Nothing is pure.
    But it was fun!

  2. I started designing my “fake” self and got very stuck in constantly reflecting on it, and haven’t created it (yet) on any platforms. I chose some parameters of social email identity to play with – change gender, change age, change social class, change educational achievement. I also got very stuck (or perhaps overly engaged) with the name of the character/Avatar I was creating – I chose a young male child, born since 2010 (perhaps born 2012, now 7 years old), wants to learn to code, has been homeschooled with minimal digital literacy and is reaching out to create a new network……..first name Cody, stuck on the surname, may chose SMITH just to force myself to move forward with the project! I am also in the throes of considering the platform and rejected some very quickly – not a character on or ResearchGate because that is a sensitive community in which an Avatar may be inappropriate to the specific purposes of those platforms with a community sensitive to fakery and ethical hesitations too……I hesitate to put Cody into Reddit or other social platforms (will he be preyed apon?? ignored?) and am now considering just Twitter for him, or maybe a free yahoo email address and watch what adverts appear for him….another reflection – if I create him and someone back-tracks him, what then are the consequences for me as his creator? I think I am tangled in all the possibilities, ethical pauses and so on for “Cody”. I am glad though – it opened many important thought trails and musings for me. I wonder what I will do next?

    1. In many ways these reflections are the heart of the Digital Fieldwork. It’s interesting how many factors you can get ‘stuck’ on that a 7 year old would never consider. It’s certainly a complex environment out there. I’m not sure how Twitter, for example, would react to a 7 year old. Depends very much on who you choose to connect to.

    2. Hi Ann, i was also toying with the idea of setting up a fake online persona, however the more i though about it the more i was uncomfortable with the idea. I envisaged one of two consequences; 1) I start a conversation that no one responds to, which would be disappointing and frustrating, or 2) someone did respond and they would assume they were entering a genuine dialogue with who I was claiming to be. This could be disappointing and frustrating for them when I ended the conversation (I couldn’t keep up the pretence for ever). What if they wanted to develop the conversation further? this I think would be unfair

      1. I started a profile in Instagram and kept my interactions mainly to ‘likes’ to minimize this sense of inauthenticity or trickery. Your comment has made me wonder about the differences in being ‘genuine’. I suspect I could have a more genuine dialogue *not* under my ‘real’ identity and I know I’ve had plenty of less-than-genuine dialogues as ‘me’. It will depend on your relationship with your ALT identity and what you thing the role of that identity is.

      2. Hi Darren and David
        Thanks for your conversational “replies” and engaging with my posting.
        I decided not to proceed with creating Cody Smith for a couple of reasons – those mentioned here and I also got very very busy with paid and volunteer work over past couple of weeks (yet also managed to keep on reflecting, hahaha).
        I have REALLY appreciated the chance to engage with the exercises in digital fieldwork and am grateful for the opportunity and the clarity of the exercises, and the reflective triggers David offered.
        I have been more mindful as I do my usual social media work –
        It also enabled me to reflect on – but decide not to do anything new about it – some social media experiments I did a couple of years ago creating waves in Wakelet, and boards in Pinterest as a Thesis Companion. I also recently did my first review for my only non-hybrid social media space on Goodreads.
        This week is week one in academic contact (face-to-face and digital or online) with my students at the University where I work – and I think I am acting a little differently there as a result of this digital fieldwork (!!yes, really, THIS digital fieldwork)……I am carrying a more comfortable appraisal of and sense of both my technical skills, and of my ability to “wing it” as needed….am pondering this but I attribute it to the culture our UAL colleagues created – get in there and play, take risks but only the ones you want, and respectful engagement with ideas.

        Thank you for the risky and respectful space for digital fieldwork!

  3. Contributing to the knowledge/discourse, part 2. Okay – so we are in the midst of #brexit and of a very public and tomy mind systematic media campaign designed to vilify Labour and corbyn. So – after the Seven Dwarfs decided to publicly leave Labour and tell the country that they were mad, bad and dangerous to know… I thought I would join in with just one person who seemed to support the split and/or not consider that an anti-Labour media campaign might just be something not to join in with right now (I am giving away my position just a tad, I admit). I was worried – cos I know that these sort of exchanges can become fiery – personal – verbally challenging. I have been pleasantly surprised. The first reply I received was a – well actually I agree with 99% of what you have said. Then another person joined in on ‘my side’ – and a little more forcefully than i had – then there was defense – then I said a bit more…
    Eventually the original poster quit the field – a bit miffed – but not hysterically.
    I think that surprisingly, we all conducted ourselves quite well.
    My reflective point is – noting just how hard I worked to keep my tone reasonable -and my examples fair – even though inside I am furious – I am seething!
    I think it is harder to conduct oneself ‘well’ on social media than it is to write an academic essay!

    1. “I think it is harder to conduct oneself ‘well’ on social media than it is to write an academic essay!” is a key point. I’d say this is because we are often passionate in social media but are supposed to be unemotional in academic writing. Personally I don’t believe in the idea that writing in the third person removes emotion. Academic writing simply has a different dialect for emotion.

      Acknowledging your position and then being mindful of it is a key ‘literacy’ in the social web. This isn’t about who is right or wrong, it’s about sustaining a meaningful discussion.

  4. For my digital fieldwork I thought I’d give the “make, curate and share” option a go. The result is a face book page I created called Run Out Recordings – “A celebration of the unique hypnotic sounds produced by vinyl record run out grooves”.

    I’ve always been fascinated /distracted by sounds, particularly when they cross over into something musical (to my ears at least). Although I’ve no recollection I was apparently as a small child prone to sitting hours on end by the washing machine in the kitchen, entranced by its repetitious rumbling, swishing and clunking rhythm. The sonic qualities of run out grooves are not dissimilar; I like their abruptness – they are an unintended, rude but sometimes welcome interruption to the artist’s carefully crafted composition.

    In contrast with the digital, run out grooves are inherently analogue. Digital has the ability to detect and correct unwanted aberrations (noise, clicks etc.) and remove them. Hence digital recordings can be reproduced and replayed countless times without deviation from the original source – up to a point when errors can no longer be corrected and it becomes unplayable (digital is binary, it either works or it doesn’t). Unlike digital, analogue doesn’t hide these artefacts – it highlights them; the more the original source is copied, the more it’s played, the more the sound degrades – sometimes gracefully, other times disgracefully but with often interesting and unintended sonic results that can become etched into the record’s run out groove. Run out Recordings aims to capture and share these random, happy accidents.

    What do they sound like? They are percussive loops that range from the quiet pulse of a beating heart to the crunching noise of a runaway train – sometimes even not a million miles away from that repetitious rumbling, swishing and clunking sound of my childhood washing machine.

    The facebook page is open access and the visitor is encouraged to not only comment on the recordings (think of them as a series of audio Rorschach tests – what do you “hear”?) but also to record, post and share their own. In a nutshell, the page is intended to celebrate the uniqueness and unpredictability of analogue, made possible via the openness and replicability of digital. Let’s see if anyone takes the bait – I’ll keep you posted.

  5. I’m aiming for a blend of Make, curate and share + Contribute to discourse/knowledge by figuring out how to shape a blog space that isn’t academic (the last three I’ve managed were all linked to school – one to our tcg/lrng center, the other two to specific courses), which is a start to having me do something different in virtual space. That something different is still a blog, with motivations that are more personal than professional, and content interests that require me to learn in disciplinary and experiential realms that are new to me.

    More at

  6. I’ve returned to my ALT Instagram profile (my only Instagram profile). I think I’ve got used to the fashion and body aesthetic of the people and brands I follow now. I simply followed whatever was suggested to me so it’s all, supposedly, aimed at my ALT persona. Now that I can see past those images which I found so constructed and uncanny, I have been enjoying the visual nature of the platform. It’s been rewarding to post ‘pretty’ photos of sky, flowers, trees etc (I have to avoid selfies…). The kind of pics I’d never post to Twitter as they are so derivative and my Twitter personal is more critical and – dare I say it? – sophisticated?

    Posting ‘nice things’ and getting the occasional ‘like’ is simple and somehow refreshing. Just using the visual aspects of the platform has liberated me from the work of crafting sentences.

    So, this time around, I’ve been less concerned about the lens on identity that my ALT has given me and have been enjoying the liberation of not having to consider my reputation and audience in the manner I feel I have to with my professional persona in Twitter.

    1. “…not having to consider my reputation and audience in the manner I feel I have to with my professional persona…” – yes, this *is* intriguing, interesting. And what, to your note about “unknown reader”, I’m interested in experiencing to work through.

  7. I originally intended to create an entire fake persona. I was recently reminiscing with a friend how when we first joined the internet, everyone was misrepresenting themselves. So for the better part of my teenage years, when I would log in to forums and chatrooms, I had the fake ‘me’ through which I expressed the ‘real’ me. I thought about returning to that but then something didn’t sit right about it. Now the nature of social media is to be as authentic as possible – even though it often breeds inauthenticity instead.

    So I chose to create a new profile for myself. in the chat for part 1, there was a good discussion about personal v. professional social media presences. Then, I said I just had one Twitter account I was using and it was representative as me as a whole – all the things that make me laugh, curious, mad and just life commentary. But then I was told I could put my handle in the bio of one of my work-related Twitter accounts and I hesitated. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of the feed I’d been curating for almost 8 years, but that was the first time I had really thought about creating my ‘professional’ persona online.

    So I created a new Twitter, and I find that I like that I have a space now dedicated towards my work life. It allows me to curate that feed based on my professional interests and engage in content that has a better place there than my other account. While it’s pretty minimal right now, I can see it growing and I’ll use it more in time. Both accounts are public, and I like the thought of the two different representations of me coexisting out there in peace.

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