Format: 2-3 pages, Times New Roman, 12-pt font, 1-inch margins on all sides,
Citations should be in a consistent, in-text parenthetical format (MLA and ASA both work).
If you cite course content, then in-text parenthetical citations are good enough (no full bibliography or works cited needed for this assignment), but if you cite anything that is not part of course content, you WILL need a full citation so that we know what this source is.
IMPORTANT: Please check your submission after uploading to make sure 1) it was the correct file and 2) the format of your file was readable. You are responsible for submitting the correct and readable file before the due date.
Preparation to Write the Paper: Throughout this semester, spend approximately 5 hours a week engaging and initiating with a virtual community. Your goal is to immerse yourself as much as possible in a virtual community (either one that you already have some experience with or a new one) to investigate what being a part of such a community is like. This is like doing ethnography and participant observation in a virtual space. Take notes about people’s reactions to you and the social interactions that occur in such a community. Reflect on your own experiences, feelings, and interactions.
You may create social experiments (without harming anyone) or observe other people’s interaction in the virtual community. You may even conduct interviews (virtually) with people that you meet. And look for connections from your experience to the readings, lectures, and themes from the course.
NOTE: Please follow basic ethical guidelines when conducting research, especially if you decide to do some social experiments or conduct interviews. If you have any questions, please ask me.
The final product (due April 12) will be an argumentative paper that connects what you observed/experienced in the virtual community to at least 2 readings from course content.
As a way to guide you towards that final product, the first assignment is a report that will help you gather interesting observations and help you connect them to course content.
Write a double-spaced 2-3-page report that starts to analyze the data you have collected and starts to look at possible themes and readings to engage with. In your report,
you will have two key subsection headings:*
1. People and Interactions
2. Possible Course Content
People and Interactions
In this section, you will do the following:
Describe 2 patterns
that you have observed in your virtual community. Patterns are relatively consistent and repeated incidents, interactions, ways of using the virtual community, etc. that you have observed in the virtual community.
· For each described pattern,
provide at least 1 specific example
that illustrates the pattern. This could include screenshots, but could also just be your description of what occurred.
· For each described pattern,
brainstorm a short list of relevant course concepts
that relate or connect with the described pattern. For example, “This pattern connects to several course concepts including social capital, virtual communities and Rheingold, gaming and Twitch streaming, social movements…” Look at the syllabus to help you brainstorm some possible ideas, including looking ahead at readings that we may have yet to cover. You do not need to elaborate on this list.
Possible Course Content
In this section, you will do the following:
Choose 2 course concepts
from the lists you made in the first section.
· For each chosen course concept,
start by listing the most relevant lectures and readings
that connect to the concept (e.g. “Social capital is a key concept in the readings from… <insert author names>. It is also discussed in the lectures on… <insert lecture titles>.” Be sure to look AHEAD in the syllabus too!
· For each chosen course concept, using readings and/or lecture,
explain the concept
paying special attention to the parts of the idea that relate most to your virtual community.
connect the concept to the examples you gave earlier
. Either show how your experiences or observations agree or disagree with the course content; or show how the course content pushes you to understand the data differently.
Each section is worth 50% of the total grade. In the first section, your descriptions should be detailed and clear–easy to picture and understand. In the second section, your listing of course content should be relatively complete and your explanations of the course content should be accurate.
The reader should be able to see not only how much time you have spent interacting with the virtual community, but also how well you are able to start seeing connections to course material.
1. What kind of virtual community works for this paper?
A virtual community that has a visible, discernible boundary where you can identify members clearly is generally the kind of virtual community that will work for this. So that means saying “Facebook” might be simply too large, but identifying a subgroup on Facebook (like a Facebook Group) would likely work better. For Twitter or Instagram, this could be a hashtag or communities that revolve around a specific person, theme, etc. Look for subgroups rather than overly large communities with unidentifiable boundaries.
Blended communities (communities that are partially virtual and partially offline/face-to-face) work as well, as long as a relatively large portion of interaction takes place online. This would include things like dating apps, Meet Ups, and other communities that have a predominately online interaction space but has a significant physical component as well.
You are welcome to do a virtual community that you have been a part of for awhile–my only concern is that if you are too close to the community, it could blind you to interesting things to notice, simply because you are too close to the culture of that community. You should pick something that interests you, but something new could also be beneficial for this assignment.
One suggestion is to look for niche virtual communities. These are sometimes on random websites, fan pages, forum spaces, reddit subgroups, etc. and are not always found on massively popular and mainstream social media websites. Some of the most interesting virtual communities are more specific and more hidden. These communities can be relatively small, as long as there is daily engagement so that you can plug yourself in and really get to know people.
The virtual community should also have a social media space that allows you relatively meaningful engagements. In other words, if you did some kind of gaming community, look for specific spaces to engage with a set group of people. This could be a guild, discord site, fan page, resource guide/community, etc. Just playing the game will not work as you probably have fairly limited access to engagements and gathering data.
2. How do I write this report? Should I literally write out the question and then answer it? Should we answer the questions in order?
be sure to use subsection headings as instructed above
. This will help your clarity and make sure your reader can follow your thoughts. My suggestion is to use paragraphs that clearly answer one (maybe two) of the questions that are listed in each subsection. Use transitions and clear topic sentences (the first sentence in each paragraph) to show which question you are answering.
I would generally answer the questions in the order that they are presented above–they follow a fairly logical progression. But technically you do not have to answer them in order if it makes more sense not to.
3. Do we need citations in this report?
If you are only citing readings from course material, you just need the parenthetical, in-text citations. If you are citing anything outside of course material, you need to provide the full citation in a works cited page at the end of the report. You do not need citations outside of course material to do well on this report. I assume you will likely have some citations from readings or lectures to answer part 2 of the report.
4. Can we use screenshots for this report? Can we gather data via surveys on our virtual community for this report?
Yes, I think screenshots can be used for this report if they are helpful in describing the virtual community–however they are NOT necessary to get a perfect grade on this assignment. They can be helpful if you find it difficult to describe something about your virtual community or about the social media platform.
This would not count towards your 3-page limit and you can attach them either embedded in the report or at the end of the paper as an appendix. Please label your screenshots with a simple caption so that your reader knows what they are looking at. In general, keep all identifiers anonymous, which might mean blacking out some names of people–this is to respect anonymity and concerns of privacy.
You may also gather some data informally through a survey, but at this point, I do not think this is necessary for this assignment. You might consider doing it for the final paper, especially if you find it essential or incredibly relevant for your analysis and the argument you will eventually make. For this assignment though, you can certainly do it, but I do not really think it is necessary and your personal observations should be enough for you to answer every question with relative confidence.
If you do gather data through an informal survey of the virtual community members, you can display this data as a chart or graph at the end of the report or embedded in the text of the report–whatever makes more sense from the perspective of someone reading your report. Again, this would not count towards your 3-page limit.
5. I don’t see a reading that really fits with what I want to talk about in my paper/this report. Can I draw on readings I find on my own?
The short answer is no. This is NOT a real research paper. Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources or guidance to feel comfortable unleashing several hundred students online to go do independent research. Instead, I think of this project more as an introduction to virtual community research that uses simple, flexible research methods as a way to introduce you to the field–perhaps in the future, you can build off of what you do in this class.
As a result, you are only graded on readings that are found on the syllabus. This MAY limit the scope of what you can talk about (see above suggestions on how to approach gathering data for this paper). If there is a course concept that appeared in lecture but I did not assign on the syllabus, you ABSOLUTELY can use this reading if you get approval. Please come talk to me as soon as possible to get permission and a copy of the reading that pertains to the course concept and you can use that in your paper and it will count towards your usage of two readings.
Note: Under the Files section of our bCourses site, in the folder title “Readings” there is a folder of “Extra readings” that are okay to use for the virtual community paper. You might want to check there first to see a reading has already been approved and added to that folder.