After some discussion with the group and my tutor, Sian, I have chosen to do my ethnographic study on the Gerry Anderson Model Makers’ Alliance (GA-MMA). I did some preparatory work, got some facts and figures together, etc. I started the report itself , as is my working style, on the web page at http://atate.org/mscel/ethno/.
I considered ethical matters, and discussed acting as a “new member” as a probe on how the community reacted. But after discussion on the course forum, I decided against this on ethical groups of misleading a community I am already a member of and potentially making someone in the community spend real time to assist a fictional new member.
I addressed straight away, a potentially serious blocking technical issue which was how to obtain all the messages in a form I could process and analyse locally without individually reading and seeking the threads I feel I want to follow (e.g. on how new members are treated and supported, or otherwise) in the 500 or so postings available publicly. I have installed a message grabbing and archiving software and obtained the message traffic (deliberately without member login to ensure no members only or private messages are included). An initial Wordle tag cloud of this is shown here… which already shows some interesting themes related to the most popular topics discussed, craft modelled, etc.