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LRDG: Internet forum as community of practice and as political voice: Researching Mumsnet

Date: 8 November 2011 Time: 1 - 2 pm

Venue: C89, County South

Karin Tusting (Lancaster University):

Mumsnet is a UK parenting forum which attracts 20,000 posts a day.Many aspects of this site are potentially of interest to New Literacies research. For a start, there is its distinctive community identity.Practices signalling 'fluffiness' are resisted, while practices such as swearing and robust discussion, frowned upon by competing sites, are actively encouraged.The old-school, single-modality appearance of the site, made up of text and a few static emoticons, is part of this 'spikier' identity, which is explicit, self-reflexive, and often discussed. In addition being a distinctive community of practice, Mumsnet has more recently become a force in the public sphere.As a site thought to give access to a key 'floating voter' electoral demographic, engagement on Mumsnet has become a necessary part of political campaigning and activity.Every major party leader participated in a Mumsnet webchat before the last election.The site also runs its own campaigns, and discussions occasionally have the power to shape the news agenda.

This paper will discuss Mumsnet both as a self-reflexive community and as a voice in the public sphere.There is potentially great value in approaching analysis of these issues by drawing on literacy studies perspectives and methodologies, particularly ethnographically-informed participant-observation.However, this raises significant ethical and methodological questions.These include participants' understandings of the nature of their postings on an (admittedly public) site; difficulties around anonymising participants; and the particular personal and relational challenges associated with participant-observation in a community in which I have been participating not as a researcher for several years.This paper will address the ethical and personal dilemmas that this raises.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Karin Tusting

Organising departments and research centres: Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Communities of practice, Digital literacies, Ethics, Ethnography of literacy


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
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