Here we go again!  A few years ago, we (with our students) conducted an ambitious ethnographic research project on student life at Fresno State, with a focus on informing library services.  The Library Study ended up as a major statement about student life on campus at the time (2009).  Three years later, we’re embarking on another ethnographic study of students on our campus, this time focused on student IT use.  The study was inspired by some recent research by anthropologists at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  That study caught the eye of our VP for Administration, Cindy Matson, who also happens to be TheAnthroGeek’s student in the doctoral program in educational leadership here.  Seeing an opportunity to inform looming decisions about how to invest scarce IT resources with data about actual student behaviors and attitudes, Ms. Matson asked us if we could do something similar to the Milwaukee study.  Just a few months later, we have the skeleton of a research plan and we’re meeting with various campus stakeholders to nail down the details.  The study launches this fall.

The way it’s brewing right now, mobile computing will be a major concern of the study.  Our campus is developing its approach to web presence, social media, data storage, software access and mobile apps, among other issues.  What do existing student practices tell us about the demand for proprietary Fresno State mobile apps?  Does the virtualization of software access make sense for student users?  What do students take away from Fresno State’s existing social media efforts?  What do they want to take away?  Stay tuned for updates on how the study evolves and what we find!

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