part of the MSc in E-learning at the University of Edinburgh

LifeStream Reflections Week 6 – It is a community, is it networked learning, is it a GME?

This week, through the artefacts encountered in my life stream I have been thinking about the extent to which the Virtual Choir constitutes a community.

Engagement with the choir centres around a single online event or performance on YouTube. The ‘community’ is for the most part located on YouTube but participant interactions are very different to a typical YouTube community as described by Wesch in his YouTube ethnography. Although participation is via webcams and screens as in other Youtube communities, in the virtual choir individual participant videos are primarily about offering a prescriptive performance as an audition piece for the choir. Therefore the virtual choir participants can make an informed guess about their audience and the context in which it will be viewed, unlike regular youtube participants where these are typically unknown. As Wesch points out most youtube participants experience ‘context collapse’ i.e. they do not know who their audience is, when they will be watching or even if they will be watching the original or a remixed version. A ‘hyper self awareness’ that Wesch claims develops when recording and broadcasting yourself via youtube might be seen as particularly beneficial for the Virtual Choristers as they are able to review their performances and improve them. However the overt authenticity of the virtual choir participants sets them apart from many youtube participants who are often playful around their identity such that it is difficult to decide what is ‘real’ and what is ‘enacted’.

In a recent Networked Learning Conference 2011 ‘hot seat’ discussion lead by Peter Goodyear a question was raised about whether the virtual choir represented networked learning. Jenny Mackness discusses this in her blog post. I found the reference to an ‘imagined community’ quite apposite especially in the light of Wesch’s comment about an increase in individualism leading to greater desire for community. As Jenny points out many of the virtual choir participants had at some time been part of a ‘real choir’ and their virtual participation seemed to awaken nostalgic memories of the collective experience of singing in a choir. It seems to me that participation in the virtual choir did provide many opportunities for individuals to learn about and improve their own performances through receiving guidance in interpretation from a leading composer/conductor and having the opportunity to review and refine them in the light of feedback and encouragement from other participants. In some sense this collection of solo performances may be considered more demanding for the individual than participation in a synchronous group performance.

This idea lead me to the final part of my journey this week, that is exploring the concept of a Global Media Event in relation to the virtual choir. Ribes define a GME as

“a special type of cyclical contemporary event, naturally global, naturally mediated through new technologies, which produce their own emotional climate and emotional dynamics, and have at its core certain spectacular collective ritual performances.”

I reflected on other instances of collective individual performances which led me to large scale sporting events e.g. The Vasaloppet and the London Marathon.


There seemed to me to be many similarities between the virtual choir and these face to face events. They are first and foremost about individual performance but the event seems also to engender a sense of connection with other like minded participants through a collective experience of participation – perhaps another instance of imagined community? There is also an element of competition associated with the virtual choir participant performances as they are hoping to be selected for a place in the choir event.

This week my lifestream has been largely focussed around exploring the virtual choir. I mostly rely on Diigo bookmarking but have been trying to use Tumblr more as it looks quite useful for capturing quotes.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on November 3rd, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (2)




2 Responses to “LifeStream Reflections Week 6 – It is a community, is it networked learning, is it a GME?”

  1.   Jenny Mackness Says:

    > have been thinking about the extent to which the Virtual Choir constitutes a community.

    Hi Geraldine – I’m wondering whether you are making the distinction here between community and community of practice. If the latter then in Wenger’s terms, the Virtual Choir definitely had a shared domain and shared practice and in that sense had the makings of a community of practice. We would then need to consider whether there was mutual engagement (I’m not sure about this, given that they all made their contributions without collaboration), joint enterprise (yes I think so) and shared repertoire (I’m not sure that they were together long enough for this – did they share a history?).

    It’s interesting to consider the Virtual Choir through a communities of practice lens.

    If they all disbanded after the event, then I don’t think they have a community of practice.

    Thanks for your thought provoking post.

  2.   Geraldine May Jones Says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Welcome to my blog – this is such a nice surprise! I wasn’t really expecting anyone to be reading this! Thank you for your interesting comments regarding the VC as a community of practice. I think the CoP idea is really helpful in trying to tease out what is going on here. As far as history goes I expect every CoP has to start somewhere and infact some of the participants have been engaged in all three VC productions. Is the birth of a CoP? I agree with joint enterprise and shared repertoire – well bending the definition a little they were singing the same repertoire ;) Seriously though as choristers and singers they have a shared vocabulary and ways of approaching their practice.

    Is the VC a varient of the larger ‘choristers and singers’ CoP where pratcices have morphed to adapt to the virtual environment?

    Thanks again – Geraldine

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