I find a lovely irony in frequently referring to Wikipedia articles to give background context to "both groups" (academia and FOSS) that this mini-project bridges, since Sumana works for the Wikimedia foundation.

Let's look at "coding." Coding is an interesting word. In the FOSS world, it refers to generating (or fixing) lines of Python or C or PHP or some other technical language-du-jour. In the qualitative research portion of the academic world, it refers to the process of tagging materials (such as fieldnotes or interview transcripts) with common occurrences or themes you're finding in the data.

Another way to explain it: what qualitative researchers call "codes," most FOSS people and non-FOSS internet users would call "tags." In both worlds, "coding" (whichever variant you're using) is a tool for analysis, for helping you make more sense of the world by working around the limitations of the human brain's limited capacity to analytically examine large amounts of information all at once -- the limits of our mental RAM, as it were.

Here is an initial list of codes for this project. We'll look at themes emerging from and intertwining with these codes over the next few posts.

  1. Co-creation: Sections illustrative of the relationship between myself (Mel) and Sumana, especially ones that show the manner in which we co-created the process of and the meaning in this mini-project.
  2. Boundaries: What's data, what's "administrative" talk? Who's a participant, who's a researcher? Places where the "usual" research lines grow fuzzy. This code could just as well be called "deconstructionism" or "poststructuralism."
  3. Performance: Sections illustrative of the signalling of roles (for instance, through the use of lingo) and/or the effects of constantly working and speaking in a public space as opposed to a private one.
  4. Physicality: Sections illustrative of the impact of distributedness and/or co-location on interactions, including the simulation of physical presence in order to compensate for its absence.
  5. Parallels: Originally a subset of Physicality called (the equally non-descriptive) "links and attention," this code refers to the multithreaded nature of attention that online interaction affords, and appears largely in the use of hyperlinks throughout the various documents.
  6. Nowness: This code refers to a sense of immediacy and a high consciousness of temporality, likely caused by the knowledge that, with unplanned online interactions, being with someone else is an opportunity to be seized. The prevalence of improvisation falls partly under this code, but is also related to the co-creation code.
  7. Effect: Sections illustrative of the impact of this mini-project on any of the individual people who've touched or been touched by it. (This code ended up being applied to Sumana a lot, but we've also done interesting things to the brains of my small in-class research group.)