I suppose this week was truly all about the ethnography, constructing it, reporting it, and presenting it. I must admit that I felt overall, while I still tackled some of the major themes of my chosen ethnographic group (eLearning Africa), I was perhaps too distracted by a choice of tool rather than a choice of content and community. I suspect this had something to do with a sense of place and container to present the place.

It reminded me a bit of Clay Shirky, as many others have mentioned, on our conceptions of certain things and subsequently our business models of these things based on supply and demand. Shirky argues that in essence these models are broken as they deal with the scarcity of materials. In digital communities, this might map well to boundaries, the limitations of community in bounded spaces and how those boundaries are used to describe the community in question. More to the point, they are used in the negative assertion; eLearning Africa is not this or that. However, it is never as simple as all that.


I do think Shirky’s notion of cognitive surplus applies to eLearning Africa. While there are many who rely on eLearning Africa for their professional development or their livelihood, many others also simply wish to lend a hand for either altruistic or personal reasons. I see community in this altruism, an offer of expertise. Each to their own abilities.

I learned quite a bit about eLearning Africa through the course of the last few weeks. I learned that it is indeed a thriving, optimistic, and growing community. I also learned that there are possible fissure points in the community that might come apart as the community grows. Essentially, those points involve, and are generally dictated by, the sense of what Africa is. Is it a place? A state of mind? An energy and purpose? I set out to answer those questions over the course of my ethnography only to learn that they cannot be answered with any definitiveness. Africa is what it is to each person who chooses to define it. It has a nostalgic allure, a vibrant edge, a sense of place and a sense of energy. The only thing I can say with any certainty about the community is that it more than just geography. Much more.

I also learned about our own #ededc community and how incredibly active the discussion was around the ethnographies. I suspect that this is the apex of activity to date and that generally speaks well of the structure of the course and its participants. As for myself, I included several audio posts on Tumblr (via Audioboo), Twitter, Flickr, and the blog. I chose Prezi to present my ethnography with as it allowed me a broad canvas in which to work.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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