Research

Having lost interest in her undergraduate degree part-way through her studies, Lydia swore that if she ever undertook a postgraduate degree it would only be in a subject that genuinely interested and enthused her. This resulted in Lydia completing a MLitt Highlands and Islands Literature degree from 2008 to 2010, studying part-time via distance learning in addition to continuing to work full-time.

Lydia enrolled for a research degree with the Centre for Nordic Studies (now Institute of Northern Studies) at the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) in October 2012, aiming to progress the research undertaken for her MLitt Dissertation (entitled “The Unique and the Usual: What can we learn about Orkney itself and about folklore in general from the body of folklore that exists in Orkney today?”).

 

Digital Ethnography and a Virtual Orkney: The Role of Folklore in Creating an Online Orkney Place

Lydia passed her thesis viva, subject to minor corrections, in August 2018. Her Director of Studies is Dr Andrew Jennings.

The thesis explores the role of folklore in creating an online Orkney place, referring to key literature from the discipline of folklore and the study of place, including the study of island places.

The research introduces the concept and theory of Virtually Filtered Places: places created in the digital environment which are related to identifiable physical places in the non-digital environment. Such virtually filtered places are created by multiple users, meaning they are subject to compounded subjectivity; and are created across a range of digital platforms, meaning a virtually filtered place is one which has a range of possibilities and multiples depending on the nature of the data collection, including which platforms are analysed. This theory is grounded in the fields of space and place research, and of potential relevance to a wide variety of disciplines which focus on the interaction and engagement of users in digital environments which are linked to places in non-digital environments.

The research develops a methodological approach grounded in digital ethnography, focussing upon three case studies using the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter. As a participant observer on Twitter, the researcher hosted a Twitter Hour discussing the #OrkneySupernatural, and hosted three Hosted Hashtags on Twitter, discussing three key themes that arose from early thematic analysis: the physical environment (#OrkneyAndPlace), the human environment (#OrkneyAndPeople), and the online environment (#OrkneyOnline). The researcher collated data from Facebook Groups and Pages as an invisible observer. Following iterative thematic analysis, nine sub-themes were identified.

Referring to users’ utilisation of platform-specific functionality and the themes and sub-themes identified, the creation of space and place relating to Orkney in the online environment is discussed, specifically considering the role that branding, media, and people play in the creation of place. The research considers the role of folklore in creating an online Orkney place (or a virtual Orkney), focussing on the importance of both the physical environment and the human environment. Finally, the features of this virtual Orkney are discussed, concluding with a proposal for how to approach the study of similar virtually filtered places.

The research offers potential ways in which to investigate emerging and developing virtual places, and what folklore as a discipline can contribute to such studies in the context of place and the fluctuating digital environments in which these places are created.


Conference Presentations

2016, April: St Magnus Conference
Orkney’s Online Landscape

2015, February: Nordic Research Network Conference
Another Dimension: The Increasing Importance of Social Media to Orcadian Communities

2014, August: Northern Studies Virtual Conference
Webscapes: Communities Online

2014, July: Steppin’ Steens o Knowledge: Folklore, Ethnology, and Ethnomusicology Conference (Aberdeen)
The Old and the New-ish: Combining Traditional Ethnographic Methods with Netnographic Fieldwork

2013, November: UHI Postgraduate Research Conference
To what extent is there a unique Orcadian identity and what is folklore’s role in its creation and maintenance? (Innovative Presentation)


Seminar Discussion

2015, October: Myths and Origins (Creation of Identities) Seminar
Orkney Online: Folklore and Identity in the 21st Century


Further Information

Institute for Northern Studies