Martin's E-learning and Digital Cultures Blog

W7_Virtual Ethnography

October 31, 2010 · 21 Comments

MacRumors: Micro Study

After several attempts to embed this (all of which unsuccessful), the above link should take you through to my Virtual Ethnography.  A tricky section of work to complete, I do hope you enjoy my observations.

The ‘collage’ will move with your mouse, or you can press play.  All of the iPods have videos which will play on ‘mouseover’ and many of the icons have hyperlinks.  If you would like to comment, it may well be easier to do so within this blog

Many thanks and enjoy :)

Categories: Uncategorized

21 responses so far ↓

  •   James Lamb // Nov 1st 2010 at 7:09 am


    ‘Many thanks and enjoy’

    Really knocked out by your work! The collage is Mac-like in it’s simplicity and clarity – a perfect example of aptness.

    I think one of the most interesting points you make is the status afforded to members of the MacRumors community based upon number of posts – the same applies within my own chosen community. This would seem to challenge the idea of a ’status equalization’ effect as a hierarchy exists within the community based upon number of discussion posts.

    I’ve set up an Vuvox account based upon what you’ve put together – some of the work on this course really ‘raises the bar’!

    Many thanks, I enjoyed.

  •   Jeremy Knox // Nov 1st 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I too signed up for VuVox, after following up your initial twitter post, but not managed to produce anything yet! This is a fantastic way to document a range of sources, and incorporate your own ‘field notes’ (I like the note book reference in the background to these), really impressive. Great comment from James about the slickness of navigation, perfect for documenting a community who share ideals of design, simplicity and affordance in the tool. The rollovers on the videos are impressive, and addictive.

    I think it is interesting how you have included Mac adverts as an indicator of community. I was not so sure at first, but now I am wondering how accurately they represent the Apple ‘ethos’, and I think they do. I can just imagine Mac people nodding their heads when watching these. (I also thought that I look a bit like the PC man…damn.) I wonder how many other community values would line up with the advertising campaigns associated with the products? I guess this goes back to what you have documented about the cohesive community. People really believe in the product.

  •   Dennis Dollens // Nov 1st 2010 at 1:07 pm


    It’s linear and sleek as a Mac, takes a bite out of PCs in the best tradition of 1 Infinity Loop, testifies to v-community, and had me lol. Great going. Oh, Steve said to tell you he loves you!

  •   Linda Matthews // Nov 1st 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks for this Martin. There is a real harmony between the content of your ethnography and its presentation. Most elegant. Indeed, there are many instances of the layering of subject and form within the presentation.

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 1st 2010 at 9:37 pm


    ’sleek as a mac’ which are now, apparently, going to become scratch proof, very handy! Thanks for the comments, my 501s and black turtle neck are on order! :)

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 1st 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Jeremy (PC Man? ;) )

    Vuvox really was fun to play with, and the more I used it, the more I ‘got into it’ and couldn’t help tinkering with little sections…

    …interesting that you picked up on the ‘Get a Mac’ advertisements, I wasn’t sure at first either, but as you suggest they sum up ‘everything Apple’ very well. Indeed, it got me thinking about the image they project with their retail and support staff…always appearing ‘young and hip’ but never cocky and always fantastically helpful. Another marker to help any non-converts begin to believe

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 1st 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks Linda,

    really glad you enjoyed it, I always true to keep presentations such as this as simple as possible, which has sat very well with the Apple theme – maybe I’ll go for aluminium next time ;)

  •   James Lamb // Nov 2nd 2010 at 10:39 pm


    The cartoon strip about Mac you’ve just Tweeted made me think of one of my friends. He’s a relatively ‘anti-trend’ kind of guy and used to stroll about campus with an ‘iSheep’ t-shirt, depicting the black silhouette of a sheep overlaid with the white ipod phones (parodying the iPod ad campaign).

    I saw him the other day attached to an iPhone.

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 2nd 2010 at 11:06 pm

    excellent James, the question now is, how will he respond to the iPhone 4GS.1x model, with side facing cameras etc?!… ;)

  •   Sharon Boyd // Nov 3rd 2010 at 8:18 am

    Hiya Martin, this is really brilliant. As you, and others, have said, it really fits with the Apple elegant design (elegance in simplicity or vice versa). Definitely warrants the black turtle neck and 501s :)

  •   Sharon Boyd // Nov 3rd 2010 at 8:23 am

    Aaargh, typed Jeremy instead of Martin!!! Huge apologies! Feel free to delete me!

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 3rd 2010 at 2:56 pm

    no problems Sharon, used the quick edit to change ‘me’ – I do this all the time when marking children’s books!! :)

    thanks for your comments too!

  •   Noreen Dunnett // Nov 3rd 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Martin – I found your ethnography visually appealing and the sense of story-telling compulsive. Lovely clear font, with multi-modal content made it easy to follow.

    I especially liked your avatar/mini-me which lent a personalised narrative or feeling of a journey with a guide.

    I wasn’t entirely clear about the basis of this community – is it based on ownership of Apple products? Are most of the discussion threads about sharing technical problems? There seemed a lot of rules for forums! Perhaps this was due to the sheer size of the ‘community’?
    Is the ‘god ‘qualifier you mentioned based on technical expertise or just general know-how?

    I found the videos interesting as they seem to anthromorphise computers – does that improve the sense of community and Apple being about people?

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 3rd 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Noreen

    I had hoped the ‘me’ would act as a sort of narrator, and he also allowed me to ’say’ some of the things which sprung to mind

    The MacRumors forum is a space for people to discuss Mac products, news and indeed rumours. In some cases the users don’t have mac products, though I found this to be a rarity, since iPods would still count! And as a result, ‘everything’ is discussed, from tech bits to tips and tricks, and collecting mac artefacts to sharing photos in the gallery. I did a little more digging and buried in one of the ‘help’ pages it says one can report they have ‘god’ status simply by paying a $25 subscription (which also makes things ad free), not entirely sure what their ominpotent label implies.

    I have always loved the videos, as Jeremy picked up, they imply the Apple ethos, easy to use, friendly etc. As you suggest, the personification probably does improve the community – I have to say I loved the way they made a movie a person!

    Thanks for all these comments and questions ;)

  •   Marie Leadbetter // Nov 3rd 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Loved your ethnography Martin – I got a real feel for the MacRumours community & loved how it was presented. I love how we’re finding so many new tools through this module. :)

  •   Sue Grundy // Nov 4th 2010 at 8:07 am

    Loved your ethnography. Very creating. Use of sideways sliding of pages was very Apple. Really interesting topic and great presentation.

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 4th 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Sue,

    thanks for this, Vuvox is great isnt it? Glad you enjoyed it :)

  •   Martin Gibb // Nov 4th 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Marie,

    Its amazing how many applications and tools we have come across on this module, and there was I thinking that we got loads for IDEL. My students think Vuvox is great, looking fwd to seeing their work… :)

  •   Jen Ross // Nov 4th 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Fantastic work here, Martin – others have complimented your use of vuvox – the technical skill in this presentation is really impressive.

    Something you didn’t touch on but that I wondered about (having noticed it in a lot of Mac-related news articles in Guardian Online, Wired etc) is the presence or absence of hostility towards PC users (and the seemingly inevitable ‘macs suck’ trolls) – is this not a feature of macrumors? The Mac vs PC adverts throughout make a very knowing point of playing these factions off each other (though frankly, who wouldn’t want to be on John Hodgman’s team? Bad bit of casting there, I think!), and (as Mark pointed out in the lego vs megablocks part of his ethnography), boundary-drawing is an important part of establishing communities. Is this community ‘bunkered in’ at such a level that the argument never starts because the group is so homogeneous?

    I appreciated you self-describing as an apple fanatic – it’s great to have your own stake in the topic explained.

  •   Hugh O'Donnell // Nov 4th 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Slick. ( &

    I think that iPhone vs Android is the new Mac vs PC, as sue – counter-sue enraptures the US as – potentially – the handheld is the dominant market in the next decade or two. The idea that Apple are still the cool nerds – does this exist? Or have they usurped this positioning (previously held by Microsoft) and are now the ‘corporation’ now facing the pesky ‘Android’ kids?

    You have to hand it to Apple, producing the pocket PC with phone; a paradigm shift from Browser -> ‘Apps’ (analogues to the desktop platform); a continuation of the aesthetic importance of a technological device that is designed to be unobtrusive and seamlessly become part of your daily life…


  •   Mark Garratt // Nov 5th 2010 at 8:01 am

    Hi Martin.
    I really enjoyed this, and I think that it is true to the ethos expressed in some of the core readings with regards to users pretty much always finding a way to socialise and at least lay the foundations for a comunity – even within a forum that may not have been set up with “community” in mind. During the first running of my own course, I had to continuously request that students stick to the subject matter during asynchronous discussions. Their instinct was to want to draw in more social topics – and the simple solution was to create a “social forum” for them to express things that did not relate to the learning objectives, and I have always supported this space ever since.
    A slick presentation as well !

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