[lg policy] online area studies teaching; digital anthropology?

Dave Sayers D.Sayers at SWANSEA.AC.UK
Fri Feb 22 12:31:50 UTC 2013

Hello folks,

Apologies for the cross-posting; I'm hoping someone out there will know what I'm on about.

I'm currently in the middle of a fixed-term one-year lecturing post in Finland (covering someone's
research leave). One of my second-year courses is a seven-week introduction to British society,
identity, politics, etc. My students are highly fluent in English; two of them even have a British
parent. I've got all the necessary course materials (notes, handouts, slides etc.), but I was hoping
to add something extra...

What I have in mind is for my students to explore online discussions among British people, for
example in chat forums, the comments sections of media reports, and perhaps even Facebook. I was
hoping to make it a little more substantive than simply browsing through such comments. One idea is
to get them to sign up and start contributing, though I haven't developed that idea particularly
far; nor am I really sure of its pedagogical meatiness. One idea for such meat would be for them to
try to arrange and thematise the different sides of the debate going on, thereby getting a more
coherent window into an element of contemporary British civic society. All this would sit alongside
the existing assessment framework of reading, essays and presentations so it's more of a supplement,
though it could potential contribute to their coursework in the form of 'primary data'.

As is probably only too obvious by now, I'm overwhelmingly familiar with any of this (at least, not
in terms of research). I am vaguely aware of 'Digital Anthropology' as a field, and my initial
searches suggest some relevance -- for example this list of MSc dissertations at UCL:
http://goo.gl/rghun. What I'm basically looking for is something pedagogically robust, whereby my
students gain some first-hand insight into a foreign culture, and come out with a richer
understanding. Whether that is a series of short exercises, or something they do cumulatively over
the seven weeks, I'm flexible about -- I could probably run the whole thing in a computer room, so
either option is feasible.

Right, I think that's enough for a Friday afternoon. I'd very much appreciate anyone's thoughts on
the above -- anything at all, at whatever tangent. Thanks in advance for anything anyone can
suggest, and please do forward my request on elsewhere if you think someone else could help.

I'll collect all responses and try to send out a summary of responses. So please begin your reply by
saying whether you're happy to be named there.

All the best,

Dr. Dave Sayers
Honorary Research Fellow, Arts & Humanities, Swansea University
Visiting Lecturer (2012-2013), Dept English, Åbo Akademi University
MA Dissertation Advisor, Laureate Online Education & University of Liverpool
dave.sayers at cantab.net
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