Re: Answering questionnaires on line

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Tue, 13 Jun 1995 12:49:01 +1000

Diane Bennett wrote:
> I too found it tedious to see the same questionnaire, and one that requires
> no specialised knowledge so could be asked of any anthropologist the
> students could contact individually, posted and reposted over a period of
> weeks.

I thought it was rather disappointing that they were all doing the
*same* assignment. I reckon a much better idea would be to throw
them off the deep end and ask them to write something ethnographical
about a Usenet newsgroup. (And preferably *not* sci.anthropology or
alt.culture.internet: I'm all in favour of reflexivity, but I don't
think too much of it is a good thing for undergraduates.) There are
some 8500 of those, so there's enough room for hundreds of students
without distressing the inhabitants.

The teacher could provide a list of suggested approaches/topics to
investigate, but the intrepid among the students should be allowed to
pick their own way. (Who knows, some of them might produce full-scale
ethnographies.) If anyone is interested in doing this, I'm happy
to help them with some ideas for suitable (non-offensive, not too
ambitious) projects which could be carried out by undergraduates on
a Usenet newsgroup. (Hey! It'd be fun to teach a course via email/IRC
if someone else arranged it.)

> A related topic on which people might like to ponder is the suggestion (by
> our educational technologist, who assists with computer-aided instruction)
> that one of the good uses of the web is "publishing" undergraduate student
> papers. I know I'm a reactionary, but the thought of all that unedited
> stuff out there to wade through in looking for things on the largely
> unindexed web threatens to bring on a Victorian swoon.

Urgghh!! I agree. I wouldn't want any of *my* undergraduate essays
published, and I like to think they were somewhat better than the
average (well they got good marks, anyway). The idea of some of the
stuff I've seen appearing on the Web is just grotesque. But then,
much of the stuff already on the Web is pretty grotesque :-).

Maybe you could publish them locally, so students could see one anothers'
papers, but it still doesn't seem particuarly useful to me - most students
read little enough as it is, these days, so they should at least read
the good stuff!