An informal Ethnography Report on Communities of Practice
My focus for this ethnography report is on communities of practice I have recently begun to engage with on Discord (Ink, Spine and Adventure Creator). I am a fan of digital communities of practice that utilise Slack and Discord because I have more time to interact in online engagement. My philosophy in joining and participating in such groups is formed from previous organisations I have joined through work, study and hobbies like:
- creative writing groups
- life drawing groups
- the association of illustrators
- online study with The Open College of Arts, Institute of Photography and The Open University
At first, the language and tone of a new group and skill can always be challenging to get used to. Language such as ‘skinning meshes’, ‘rigging’ and ‘weights’ might take a little getting used to from a beginner in animation. Most communities have their own in-jokes and contexts that take time to get used to, as an example, each community on Discord has its own set of emoji. Members copy language in the same way that you begin to share language between friends. All of the Discord communities I’ve joined invite new members to introduce themselves – welcoming them and building a supportive hub.
For creative writing groups, it is especially important to begin reading and providing feedback before posting up your work for critical analysis. Critical reading and analysing someone’s short story, chapter or in some case an entire book takes time, effort and work. It is unlikely that a member of the practice will perform that task for a new member of the group who has contributed little. And I agree with this sentiment, so I spend time observing (lurking) and considering where I can participate in a community that will be of use.
“Start networking by thinking of all the ways you can be helpful and start giving. You’re building your Love Bank account. After some robust giving, you can start to ask for help, advice, brainstorming et cetera” (Horowitz and Poynter 2012).
When you are new to a community, like 2D animation and have no skills to offer the experienced members, you must think of other ways to be supportive (no matter how little). I tend to follow other members on social media, support their projects and express interest in the work of others.
In some communities of practice, honest, in-depth and critical feedback is wanted and requested – usually writing and photography groups. Before posting a short story in my writing groups, we used acronyms that said whether you were happy to receive critical and challenging feedback or if you just needed some encouragement. Some groups, like life-drawing and art groups, prefer members to focus on positive-only feedback for encouragement. I have found this is generally the case with the Spine Discord group. Many members are new to animating in Spine, and it’s not appropriate to point out perceived mistakes or flaws in their work – in contrast, the creative writing group might thank you for taking the time to look at their work in depth. I imagine there are places for more experienced animator’s to find similar support.
Activities and interactions are digitally focused because the group is based online. One advantage of online communities of practice on Discord and Slack is the conversations, resources shared, and information is always available to view. Online communities also tend to be larger, international, and there are a wider variety of experiences. Communities of practice-based in-person tend to focus on social activities on getting food or drinks. I like that online groups tend to be more focused on intellectual activities or practice around animation.
On a side note, I would very much like to play at The Wobble Garden, referenced in this weeks materials.
BAUMGARTEN, Robin. 2018. ‘Wobble Garden’. Wobble Labs [online]. Available at: https://wobblylabs.com/projects/wobblegarden [accessed 17 November 2020].
HOROWITZ, Sara and Toni Sciarra POYNTER. 2012. The Freelancer’s Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams on Your Terms. New York: Workman Publishing Co.