Information Autoethnography



Overview: Over a period of 4-5 days, students take fieldnotes about their experiences with information.  At the end of the time period, they write a reflective blog post and share their ideas with the class.


Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research in the social sciences involving “research, writing, story, and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political.” (Ellis xix).  In this exercise, students use aspects of autoethnography to reflect on their information practices inside and outside of school.  Over a period of 4-5 days, students take fieldnotes to document their experiences with information in face-to-face, electronic, and academic contexts.  Fieldnotes can take a variety of formats, from handwritten notes and drawings, to electronic notes using apps like Evernote (notetaking), Pocket (saving websites), and Instagram (documenting through photographs).  Students reflect on their fieldnotes by considering questions such as: Why did you look for information?  How did you find information?  When did you question the information you encountered, and why?  They write a reflective blog post that addresses their individual experience and connects it to larger social issues or current events, and then share what they learned in class.

This activity is ongoing throughout the semester.  Two or three students are signed up to engage in an information autoethnography and discuss their experiences with the class each week.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students will identify parallels and discrepancies between information in digital and traditional formats in order to reflect on their existing digital practices, critique established systems of information production and organization, and develop strategies for adjusting to a continuously evolving information environment.
    • Students will describe the variety of ways they interact with information on a daily basis, including in personal, digital, and classroom contexts.
    • Students will evaluate their existing strategies for finding, accessing, critiquing, using, and/or creating information.
    • Students will analyze their experience in relation to larger social or political issues.


Mobile apps such as Evernote, Pocket, Instapaper, Instagram on students’ personal devices.

Instructor Preparation:

Early in the semester, the instructor assigns readings that discuss autoethnography as a research methodology.  Students sign up to engage in autoethnography and briefly discuss their ideas with the class throughout the semester.  As the class progresses, the instructor guides the class to recognize new issues and ideas that are brought forth by the information autoethnographies.

Works Cited:

Ellis, Carolyn. The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography. New York: Altamira Press, 2004.


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