Media Ethnography Studies

Media Ethnography Studies


Ethnography and Facebook (Laura A)

Most people are quite familiar with the online social network  For this Media Ethnography assignment I wanted to focus on the Events section of facebook.  Here, facebook users can create events and send invitations to their facebook friends, informing them of the time, date, location and such necessary information.  The event creator can also post pictures and videos for their event.  Once the event is created the creator chooses who to send invitations to.  The invitees have the option to RSVP with a Not Attending, Maybe, or Attending response.  There is also a wall for the event.  The wall (also present on each individual facebook subscriber’s page) is like a discussion board.  On the events page the invitee must RSVP before they have the option to contribute to the wall, otherwise they will only be able to view other’s posts.  The comments on the events walls vary; some of this has to do with the event  itself, and some has to do with each individual invitee.  Let’s take a look at a few examples now.



First a few things about the events in general:  Facebook requires that the creator indicate the type of the event.  The choices include party, causes, education, meetings, music/arts, sports, trips and other.  Yet Facebook members are not limited by these eight choices.


Looking closer at the event wall and the responses of the invitees:


It seems that the responses on the event wall vary depending on a number of variables.



            After looking through some of the party events (birthday, housewarming, and Halloween) I noticed that there are trends with the wall posts.  A typical post includes regret for being unable to attend, often included with a reason.  Another common post refers to a specific portion of the who, what, when and where of the event information.  Often time this is something comical.  For example, one invitee writes “had you gone with the mathematicians theme I would have been there...I'll just return my costume now Have fun!”.  This is in response to the event’s theme, “THEME: Sexy Party - Dress sexy, we know you know how.(P.S.) This theme is also up for discussion, but it's a relatively easy one for such a short notice. Alternate theme options include: "16th century mathematicians" and "Prime Ministers of New Zealand."  One other common theme among posts to party events is references to past memories with the party host.  Some examples include, “ooooooo can we sing happy birthday in 5 part harmony? or have those days past?”  and “Hmmmm. If I do come I'm sticking to beer. Remember last time?”. 


            Another type of event that has become popular on facebook is the gathering of telephone numbers when cellphones have been lost/dropped/stolen.  Here is an example of this type of event; the event page reads “Adam lost his cell phone and needs every number from every person in the entire galaxy. Msg it 2 me, or wall it, or email it, or call it in at ***-****.” (number removed from this post for security reasons).   While this facebook event host received 77 attending RSVPS, 98 people did not RSVP. When asked about this the host, Adam, stated that many of the people just called him without responding.  He said this actually worked better because then their numbers were automatically entered into his new cell phone.  One of the posts on Adam’s event shows (satirically) why some invitees may hesitate before posting their private telephone number on a social network “I think someone stole your phone Paris Hilton style and posted all the numbers on the internet. I've been getting a bunch of calls from beautiful model/actress type women who want to have my children. At least they tell me they are beautiful model/actress types. You should attach your phone to one of those zip cords that comes off your belt, that way you won't put your friends in a situation like this again. Lots of love brother”.



Another type of event that has circulated the facebook scene is a “project invitation”.  It’s quite possible that something similar was sent out by some of my CI 5472 classmates.  These types of invents are much like a survey or a poll.  They are used to gather information on the effectiveness of the facebook community or to gather signatures for a specific cause.  One example is an event created by Steven who was attending a seminar and was given this assignment “This group is to get 1,000,000 signatures for a global communication contest I am in at a training seminar in San Diego. Please help us out by simply giving us a "signagture" with your name, city and country AND then asking your friends to do the same. We are trying to get 1,000,000 hits just using Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and a blog - in 36 hours from all over the world (9am Thursday morning-Pacific Time). You can add to our numbers here by just signing the wall. I'll post our final tally, and let you know whether or not our team was the big winner in this global communication exercise!!!

Thanks, Steve”


Unfortunately Steve only received 134 wall posts, far from 1,000,000.  Yet, he asked for names and locations. 8 countries were represented among his 134 wall posts (relatively impressive). 


One of my speculations about these types of posts:  yes it doesn’t take too much time to sign one’s name, but these types of invites come out more and more frequently.  Steve’s event took place in Feb 2007, but I have received a number of these in the past year including the most recent invite from Beth , “I'm doing a paper in my Human Behaviors - The Psychology of Marketing class. The paper is about the marketing world and the changes that have taken place in the last 5 years. One of the main points that I'm trying to make is how influential viral marketing can be. One individual with an average facebook account can reach (screw it) 300,000+ people in less than 10 days just by making a group and inviting people. There have been other experiments where this worked, my paper talks about the likelihood that it can be duplicated”.  Most wall posts were encouraging, or showed surprise at the numbers that Beth’s event was reaching, however, this post made me laugh “I must say I doubt I'll post more than this, but I joined for a friend... I'll sadly probably forget all about this group by the time I logout... nothing personal... lol...”. 



So now that we’ve looked at a few different events that can be advertised on facebook, let’s do some analysis.  For a refresher, the events include parties, lost phone numbers, and projects.  The responses vary based on how well the host in know by the invitee, the number of other invitees, and the status of the RSVP.  Plus, one must factor in how much time a person has when RSVPing.  For some people just clicking attending or not attending is enough.  Maybe they don’t have time to write a post, or maybe they don’t have much to say and will wait to save their words for the actual event.


  One must also take into account the previous posts.  If there tends to be a comical tone to the other posts on the wall it seems some people try to one up each other.  Such as the responses to Mike’s Senior Art Show event; one invitee writes “Hey Mike, how about all of you send an invitation to the same damn thing. I'll be there...phuck. :)” .  The next post up on the wall “I didn't think I could make it cause I, too, have MY senior art show that night...but, maybe I can squeeze it in.”


While the posts may seem insignificant at first glance, there is much to think about when taking a closer look.  This was pretty interesting actually!  I’ll probably think twice now before responding to that farewell concert coming up.





Below are some observations I ( Kelly Rudh) have made about Facebook with the help of conducting a very limited, but insightful questionaire.





Ethnography and Harry Potter: What more do you need?


This post was taken from my blog. You can find it in all it's glory at:


(WK 6) Harry Potter and the Ethnographer

For my sixth week study on Ethnography I chose to investigate the inner workings of Privet Drive, Diagon Alley, the Common Rooms of Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Slytherin and Huffleupuff, and the halls of Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ever heard of it?

Well if you haven't heard of the previous hotspots welcome to the world of Harry Potter: the world's favorite boy-wizard. I completed book seven (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), the final in the series just a few days ago and was interested in what other people thought about the books as a series. Since the books were written primarily for the enjoyment of young muggles (non-wizarding people) I felt a bit weird finding such a strong attraction to the books. I decided what better way to explore how the rest of the world views the Harry Potter scene than by evaluating the responses to the series.

Finding information for this task was not difficult. I simply Googled "Harry Potter Forums" which provided the website "" a living, breathing community of Potter lovers just like myself. I was ecstatic.

The sheer volume of information provided at Potter Forums is astounding. With over 5,000 users perspectives, theories, ideas, criticisms even art work are shared. One must only sign up for an account and starting contributing to be a part of the community. The website is set up nicely with different categories for different topics as well as small communities that integrate the books' ideas (groups like Hufflepuff, Slytherin etc. are reflective of dormitories in the series). In these different areas of the site coversations between posts and replies bring the books to life. Each person's interpretation of the books are individual to their own reading and topics can range from relationships between characters in the book to surveys set up by avid fans that inquire your opinion on subjects.

Because the website is dependent on individual contributions opinions on several different aspects of the books (and even the films) come up. From what little I read (and I say little based on the sheer magnitude of input at the site) topics that were most popular were the relationships developed between the reader and the characters in the book. Reactions to different parts of the book had people in "tears," "pissed off" or "excited." These reactions are not usually one or two word replies that try to explain the feeling readers have towards certain aspects of the book.

Take for example the a question posed by user "cleo": "Who is a more loyal lover, Snape or Bellatrix?" This question was posted March 1st, 2008 just five days ago. Already there have been over 100 responses to this question and many others like it posed by "cleo." To this particular question readers are expressing themselves deeply about who they've chosen and why:



"cleo" WRITES: I think it should be Bella. She's hot. She's rock. Snape'd never listened to Lily's advice. Lily probably the only person pitied him, treasured his company, valued their friendship. When James bullied him, Lily stood up for him. But what did he do? He called Lily mudblood. How could Lily be friend of him for almost 6 or 7 years? Snape chose dark art and gave up Lily. Did he really love Lily? Maybe but sure he loved dark art and power much more. He did lots of things for Harry and DD, mostly based on his redemption, partly for love and partly for their friendship. Bella loved Voldemort, despite everything, not even her husband could get in the way. She never betrayed him. She went into prison for him for 14 years. She did whatever she was told. She loved him, feared him and still placed his interest before her own. She fought for him til dead. What a great lover!!!!!


XxJennxX WRITES: I think Snape was/is more loyal. I mean even after death he still stayed loyal to her, he had numerous chances to kill or hand Harry over to Voldemort but because he still loved Lily he didn't.


Snape is a slytherine. He was quite safe after Voldemort's downfall. He didn't risk too much for that. It's lucky that he joined DD at the right time. He didn't need to go to jail. Then he risked his life at the end of GOF, but he was lucky to have DD's help. He traded his life with his precious information. See what happened to Karkaroff!!!!! But how many years did Bella suffer because of her love? 14 years!!!!!

Snape could hardly compare!!!!!!


Members of the Potter Forum even have a chance to reply to other's input on the subject creating a virtual conversation that is posted and available for further feedback. In response to "cleo"s opening comments ..rose.weasley.. replied:


wow. this was a tough choice.. ^ great points. however i still went with snape. because everything bella did, it never "hurt" her to do it. by that i mean she never had to do anything she didnt want to do. snape however wanted nothing more to make lily happy, even if it meant lthe opposite for him. also, he only protected harry for the memory of lily. so he had to live with every emotion he ever felt towards her, EVERY single time he saw harry. if thats not devotion and true love towards lily, then i dont know what is...........and i know it was partly because of snape that lily was killed, but ....lets just look over that. lol.



The Potter Forum allows people of a common interest to express ideas and opinions about their interpretation. Forums are one of the best ways, aside from actual conversation or Instant Messaging, that people can get feedback on their ideas from a large group. These forums allow people to develop a voice that might hide insecurities about confrontation that Beach mentions in chapter 6, create a sense of community between users, give users insights on things they might not have ever considered and a place to exercise their voice on a topic they feel passionate about. Such forums are important to the production and the interpretation of texts, movies, television shows and ideas that allow the audience to interact with the product on a whole other level.




Blogging: Gaining Insights

How reflecting on my own blog helped me understand how media connects me and others to a shared experience  (Lisa Holton, Spring 2008)


Always one for personal reflection, I’ve decided to keep this week’s work VERY close to home. It was really fun to reflect and process all of this. I didn’t even know most of this was going on until I considered it through the lens of this class!

Setting: The blog that my husband and I created to share our experiences during his deployment. (

Tasks: I am part of the group I am studying, so I will refer to myself often and will include personal experiences and reflections. Over the past three weeks, my husband and I have both posted to the blog, and our friends and family have read and some have posted comments as well. When this assignment came up, I didn’t really want to do Facebook or MySpace. I did want to find out if people liked the “It’s Africa Hot in Here” blog, but since it’s a little self-centered to ask for feedback on your own blog, I didn’t want to directly ask (I am a feedback hound though). This assignment was the perfect opportunity to learn about how people are using and enjoying (or not) the blog. I’m also curious if the targeted audience has been keeping up with the posts and our story. (Sneaky, I know—I’m sly like that).


The targeted tasks included the following:

1. Reflect on the purpose for the blog

2. Consider the posts and the information shared

3. Look at who is posting comments and what information is in those comments

4. Ask others why they read but choose not to post

5. Talk to the ‘readers’ and ‘posters’ about their experiences and reasons for visiting

6. Reflect on how the purpose for the blog and the current use and purpose are similar or different.


1. The purpose of the blog was to allow our friends and family to know our deployment story. We didn’t want to have to tell the same story several times over; we wanted a central clearing house for information about the deployment that was fast, jointly controllable, and central to all of our family and friends who are scattered about the country. We are also people who enjoy sharing stories and have a fairly clear sense of style to our writing. I wanted to have a journal of this experience as well. I think also, looking back, I see that I needed to have an outlet for this experience. There is an odd balance between wanting to shout from the rooftops that you are in this situation being fiercely proud of your spouse and knowing that this is an intensely private and individualized experience that cannot truly be shared—only empathized with. There is comfort knowing you can bring people in on a controlled level. We announced the blog site on a little card in our wedding “thank you” cards, so over 100 invitations to the blog went out!


2. To date, there have been 12 posts, 9 from Lisa and 3 from James. The topics mostly include what has happened and how the timeline played out leading up to this point. It is interesting to note that there is more emotion coming from James’ posts than from Lisa’s. This is EXACTLY opposite to how life usually works. There are reasons for this that I am only now reflecting on. The reason that he has more emotions in his post is because I am letting him take the lead on most of this. I am new to the military (having only been a Navy wife for two months) and still learning. I also didn’t want to give away too much to our friends and family until I knew where he was with information sharing. The posts are beginning to change in tone as we both explore the blog as a tool for communication and cathartic purposes. Once James started openly ‘loving’ on the blog and talked about ‘breaking down’ when he deployed, the boundaries for allowable topics was expanded. Most of the blogs continue to be about events and how we perceive them from different ends. Only recently have I begun to talk about myself in relation to this experience and not just report on James’ activities as reported by him.


3. There have been 19 posts from 5 people thus far. To my knowledge, there have been at least 11 other people who read the blog regularly but do not comment when they read. I will explain this phenomenon in the next section. The comments are words of support and encouragement to James and Lisa. They are from James’ twin sister, Lisa’s sister, Lisa’s mom and James’ best friend. The comments also have a personal touch, and it is interesting to watch the dynamic of each relationship find a place on this medium.

James’ sister is very literal and shares information from her own experiences trying to make our situation better. Her posts are directed at both James and Lisa, and when asked, she says she likes commenting “because I like to make sure [they] know that I am thinking of them and that they have support from the other people. I am a Navy wife too and know what this experience is like.” Her support is welcomed by both of us, but it is frustrating when her literal understanding leads to oversights. When James and I write, we are a bit dry and sarcastic. This is lost on Aimee sometimes; this is one way the medium fails for some people. She thinks she gets it and is making comments to be helpful, but she is missing the point and may be making one of us feel stupid in some way because we are being ‘taught’ something that was a joke to begin with.

The posts from Lisa’s sister and mom are also personalized and match the dynamic shared between James and that person. I like reading these because I know the relationships really well. When asked, Lisa’s sister said she left a comment “because I don’t have another way to contact James right now. I’m sure he’s stressed out and busy, so it’s fun to send him a little inside joke to brighten his day.” This is true of all the posts. They all have an ‘inside’ piece of humor. I did not expect this to happen, but it has been wonderful to see! James has enjoyed it a lot as well.

There has only been one comment from a guy on the post. It is from James’ best friend. He said he has been busy and only just started reading the posts. James was really excited that his friend finally commented; I he James was beginning to feel ‘unloved’ that so many people weren’t reading the blog. I know that there are many people reading the blog, but they aren’t commenting. More on that in the next section.


4. As I mentioned before, there are at least 11 people who I know to be reading the blog on a regular basis who are not posting any comments. Many of these people are Lisa’s co-workers or cousins who are not really close to the couple. When asked why they aren’t posting, one of Lisa’s co-workers said “I don’t really know James very well, so it doesn’t seem to make much sense to say anything, but I like to keep up with what’s going on.” One of Lisa’s cousins said, “It’s wonderful that we can be in touch like this, but I don’t want to put information on the internet.” These two comments sum up a lot of what I heard when asking this question of the ‘non-posters.’ Many of them are unsure who this blog was designed for and are hesitant to join in the discussion until they are clear on the guidelines and who is a ‘member.’ I have sought to clarify this, but the phenomenon is interesting to me. We meant for this to be open and free flowing, but it still seems to be governed by some social rules that exist in face-to-face relationships as well. People who read the posts seem to see themselves as asking ‘how are you’ to the couple, but they are content not to reply for themselves or not sure what to say. I would like more people to read and post because, as I mentioned earlier, James equates readers with posters, and I want him to feel supported!


5. All of the readers and ‘posters’ are motivated a few common factors. I sent out an e-mail to them asking about their experiences, reasons for stopping by and posting/not posting, etc. The responses were really fun and interesting. The most common reasons were (in order) 1. Curiosity about how things are going 2. Feeling like it is a ‘soap opera’ that they are invested in (same comment from others, but this was the best wording, ha!) and 3. Wanting to show support. It’s great that the purposes mostly match the reasons that people read. They do share a common goal/experiences, but how they experience the site and their level of interaction with it seems to be controlled by normal social interactions (if you do not know the person well, you casually listen but do not pry. If you are close, you get involved and interact). This has been really fascinating for us to watch!


6. All in all, the 3 weeks this blog has been up and running have been very successful and fun. It seems that it is catching on among our friends and family. The original purposes for the blog still hold true, but I am finding that James and I are filtering our experiences in different ways through the blog. Only a small piece of what really happens makes it onto the blog. I have enjoyed getting to share the inside thoughts of the man I married with so many others. James is a quiet man, so it is fun for others to see his wit and humor (traits I see often)! I am learning that this blog is a way to be honest and still keep boundaries. People at work and friends in general do not refer to the blog when in person. It seems to exist as a separate place and does not currently make it to the ‘real world’ of conversation. Sometimes I am glad for this, but sometimes I think one of the purposes for the blog was for people to keep up and recognize the need for discourse as a means of processing. Perhaps that has turned out to be the biggest blessing from this blog. People are able to see what is going on, and we are able to boil down the day to the most basic pieces leaving the private pieces to be dealt with off-screen. The blog has become its own community in some ways, and I truly look forward to continuing to interact with it and to see how it grows and changes as this experience progresses!!