Leveraging new media for collaborative research

During the first month of the semester the Digital Ethnography class of 2008 has been hard at work trying to leverage various online tools to improve our collaborative research efforts.  We have managed to pull together a number of free tools into a single research platform that I think is going to work out very nicely.

Our homebase is on the new Netvibes Ginger release.  Tariq Krim was nice enough to give us access a couple months ago, so we were able to build up a nice little research home on the web:

Netvibes Homebase

Feel free to visit.  It is open for all to see.  This “homebase” brings together a number of tools we are using:

Google Calendar: to stay on task

Diigo: to share links and notes on online resources

Zoho Creator:  This allows us to create data entry forms.  Any researcher (I prefer this term to “student” for this class) can access these forms from anywhere and enter data they have collected.  We use this for our more systematic analyses of videos.  I put in an example below.  On the left is a small window to navigate YouTube videos.  On the right is one of our data entry forms.  Researchers can watch the video while entering data on the right.  All data goes directly to a spreadsheet where it can be exported and analyzed.

Zoho Creator

Wetpaint Wiki:  This is where most of our data is shared.  We are (or soon will be) posting class notes, research notes, fieldnotes, insights, research plans, etc.  We are trying to be as transparent and open as possible with our research.  In fact, we welcome anybody to join our wiki and work right along with us.  We would welcome the help!

We are also now experimenting with a grading structure in which some of the grading will be done by peers.  You can see our latest model on our wiki (on a page called “A radical proposal …”)

If you are interested in seeing where all this is going, the best place to look is our Project Sandbox.

I also use a wiki for my class of 200+ students and I have been very pleased with the results.  I’ll post more about that later.


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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12 Responses

  1. Becky says:

    Hey guys! I’m commenting from an RV on some highway in texas. So glad to hear about Zoho..we here are discovering many new methods of analysis because of what you all are doing..so consider yourselves ahead of the curve! my vids will be up shortly on youtube, user CyberCensus2008. check it.

  2. Wondering if you would comment a bit more on your specific selections for resources–I teach a survey course on new media and have used wetpaint the past two years, but I’m interested to know why you chose that particular wiki platform over others. (Personally, I find it easy for non-techy students to get the hang of updating the site and I like that they offer to remove ads on education-related sites.)

    What made you settle on these versus other offerings available?

    Thanks in advance. :)

  3. Prof Wesch says:

    The main reason, as you suggested, is that it is just very easy to use. Now that Wetpaint has removed the ads for education wikis I’m having a harder time finding any advantage to PBWiki and the others. The ease of use is key, especially in a large class with a broad range of incoming technology skills. The real skills I want them to learn – networking, collaboration, and participation – are not really tech skills, so Wetpaint works great for this. Wetpaint also has some of the best tracking and task management features, which are great for collaboration and for grading as well.

  4. Kevin says:

    Just a heads up for those who don’t know, Google Sites was just released two days ago. It is the product they have come up with after purchasing the wiki platform Jotspot over a year and a half ago. I am not sure that it is revolutionary enough to make you want to shift mid semester, but I think it is something to look to for the future. The idea behind it is to integrate all of Google Apps into a collaborative platform for projects and workplaces. There also has been a lot of backlash from many different sources to what Google has done with this one, so it will be interesting to see how it develops.

    Playing around with it yesterday, I created an amazing amount of things in about 3 minutes. Very slick indeed. I for one am a bit worried about customizability however…


  5. I wanted to applaud all of you for amazing work and thank you for sharing it with the world. I can’t stop watching your videos. Your story telling is insightful, emotional and truly educational for someone who has looked at this Web 2.0 buzz as just the new and improved Internet. As a 45 year old male that spends most of my day on a computer doing Internet marketing, I am amazed at how out of touch I have been. Damn I wish I could be back in school fully engaged in your conversations. Keep up the amazing work and thanks again for sharing.

    Bill Broadbent
    Instinct Marketing
    Plano, TX

  6. Garry Brand says:

    Great work! You’ve given me new ideas. I’ve been using Netvibes (Ginger) to set up a website for our new department:



  7. Hi really really interesting – look forward to hearing how it goes. I think immersion in the technologies in vital as part of developing our understanding of their impact.

  8. Kyle Brown says:

    ResearchCrossroads is attempting to help in this space as well … leveraging the community of researchers to annotate/curate publicly funded research data and to spur collaboration among the research community. Kind of a ‘MySpace for Research’.

    Another interesting tool is scivee.tv from UCSD super computing center that is helping researchers produce videos of their published work.

  9. hi hi says:

    hi im bored

  1. February 28, 2008

    Wesch on collaborative research…

    I am curious, however, to see how similar tools will be used for other kinds of research, particularly research of non-digital subjects. Any good tool needs to be 1) suited to the task and 2) suited to the user. My suspicion is that while Wesch?s onl….

  2. March 8, 2008

    [...] immersion Mar08 8 March 2008, Gráinne @ 11:41 am Really interesting approach being adopted by Michael Wesch for his Digital Ethnography course, where he and his students/fellow researchers have created a [...]

  3. March 28, 2008

    [...] in mind when I tackle new technology, I discovered that Netvibes is the application preferred by  Digital Ethnography but there are not any other instances, as far as my research as revealed, of any of these desktops [...]