Digital Essay #2: Media Auto-Ethnography


An auto-ethnography means a close observation (ethnography) of the self (auto).

For this assignment, you’ll pay close attention to your media usage for one-24 hour period. (See this link for how the Nielson ratings company is trying to do this too.)

This should involve taking detailed notes or otherwise tracking your media usage. Media in this case means both legacy and digital media–visual media (movies, TV shows, videos), communications media (text messaging, phone calls, Skype, reading the newspaper), social networking (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), software (programs and apps), and Internet sites (Wikipedia, Amazon, various websites). I expect that you’ll probably be involved with media all day long, but the point is to observe how and when you use particular media and for what purpose.

The assignment itself, which should be posted on your blog (as a Post) before the deadline, includes two parts.

Part 1: Ethnographic Description and Metrics

After observing your media usage for a 24-hour period, write a general description of what you observed. You DO NOT have to reproduce all of your notes about your day. There is no required word count for this part of the assignment.

Be sure to include at least two metrics. By metric, I mean a quantification of your observational data. For instance, you might provide a count of something (such as the number of times you check your email during the day or the number of hours spent watching videos on YouTube), a percentage (such as the percentage of your day spent using social networks or using software to do schoolwork), or a ratio (such as time spent online doing schoolwork versus time spent online goofing off).

Part 2: Personal Essay

Write a 500-800 word personal essay about the role of media in your life (as demonstrated by your ethnography). Be sure to have a main idea and to use examples from your day as support or further discussion points.

Also, to make this truly a “digital essay,” you must use at least three non-text elements in your post, such as links to other sites, images, embedded videos, or GIFs.

You may respond to one of these prompts, or invent your own:

  • In what way does digital media allow you to communicate in a way that was previously unavailable? How does that affect your life?
  • To what extent do you feel there is a barrier between your online life and your offline life? What is the significance of this to you?
  • How does the Internet change your relationship to other people, to your schoolwork, to your work or other activities? What would these be like without the Internet? What can you generalize from this about the role of the Internet in contemporary culture?
  • How reliant are you on media? What roles do they play in your life? Which of these is most important? What would your life be like without media?
  • Do you feel that digital media keep you more informed about the world around you or less? What can you generalize about the function of digital media in our lives today?



  1. Consider the whole post (including visual elements and links) as part of your composition. Arrange your visual material carefully to both look nice and relate to/support your writing.
  2. Your main idea should be a concept that ties all of your examples and observations together into a bigger idea. A main idea is not an observation, a statement, or an evaluation. It’s more like an argument, an interpretation, or an opinion.
  3. Use quotations from class readings when and if appropriate for the essay you are writing.

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