This study will analyze the observations gathered through a digital ethnography of WeLoveWeather.com. A digital ethnography allows researchers to become part of a community and observe participant activity to gather information and data for analysis (Gerber, Abrams, Curwood, & Magnifico, 2016; Murthy, 2011). For this project, we will use our digital ethnography findings to assess WeLoveWeather as an “affinity space” (Lammers, Curwood, & Magnifico, 2012; Gee & Hayes, 2011). This is a fan community that consists of loyal, engaged users with the desire to create, share and distribute content in order to inform those both in and outside of a shared online space (Gee & Hayes, 2011). Their content is referred to in fandom scholarship as “gifts,” through which fans provide media entities with valuable content and information in return for prestige, recognition and feedback (Turk, 2013). Affinity spaces are also unique in that they do not discriminate based on age, race or socioeconomic status. Those new to the community have equal footing in relation to more experienced users (Gee & Hayes, 2011). Teaching and learning is encouraged in the community, even during disputes (Gee & Hayes, 2011). This study aims to assess WeLoveWeather’s potential role as an affinity space and consider its influence on the online distribution of weather information.
Our study will offer insight on how weather is being discussed and shared in this online community. Meteorologists and scholars have expressed concern over the sharing and distribution of false information online, especially during times of crisis, such as hurricanes and tornadoes (American Meteorological Society, n.d.; Austin, Liu, & Jin, 2012; Gordon, 2016; Shepherd, 2016). This issue can be assessed through the theoretical lens of affinity spaces tied to content and user type. For example, what types of content do WeLoveWeather community participants share? How do participants respond and interact with content posted by their peers? To what extent do participants provide feedback and encouragement? How does The Weather Channel benefit from WeLoveWeather’s content? Answering these questions and more will provide theoretical and practical insights to gauge the significance of these fan communities on the distribution of weather information across media.
American Meteorological Society. (n.d.). Best Practices for Publicly Sharing Weather Information Via Social Media - American Meteorological Society. Retrieved January 24, 2017, from https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/about-ams/ams-statements/statements-of-the-ams-in-force/best-practices-for-publicly-sharing-weather-information-via-social-media/
Austin, L., Liu, B. F., & Jin, Y. (2012). How Audiences Seek Out Crisis Information: Exploring the Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40(2), 188–207. https://doi.org/10.1080/00909882.2012.654498
Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. R. (2011). Nurturing Affinity Spaces and game-based learning. Cadernos de Letras, 28. Retrieved from http://www.letras.ufrj.br/anglo_germanicas/cadernos/numeros/072011/textos/cl2831072011gee.pdf
Gerber, H. R., Abrams, S. S., Curwood, J. S., & Magnifico, A. M. (2016). Conducting Qualitative Research of Learning in Online Spaces. SAGE Publications.
Gordon, J. (2016). #Stupid - Dealing with Adversarial Social Media Posts during High Impact Weather. National Weather Association. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://www.nwas.org/meetings/nwas16/abstracts_html/Social_Science_Social_Media/2016_2853_oral_Gordon_abstract.html
Lammers, J., Curwood, J. S., & Magnifico, A. (2012). Toward an affinity space methodology: Considerations for literacy research. Retrieved from https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemId=27056
Murthy, D. (2011). Emergent Digital Ethnographic Methods for Social Research. The Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/971210/Emergent_Digital_Ethnographic_Methods_for_Social_Research
National Research Council. (2009). Observing Weather and Climate from the Ground Up: A Nationwide Network of Networks. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/12540
Shepherd, M. (2017 Jan. 3). Some Viral Weather Forecasts Are Fake News -- Two Reasons They Must Be Stopped Now. Forbes. Retrieved July 9, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/marshallshepherd/2017/01/03/some-viral-weather-forecasts-are-fake-news-2-reasons-they-must-be-stopped-now/
Shepherd, M. (2016 July 11). The Popularity Of Weather Is Shaking Up Journalism. Forbes. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/marshallshepherd/2016/07/11/the-popularity-of-weather-is-shaking-up-journalism/
Turk, T. (2013). Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom’s gift economy. Transformative Works and Cultures, 15(0). Retrieved from http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/518
weloveweather.tv. (2016, September 8). IfThen.com. Retrieved June 13, 2017, from https://www.ifthen.com/case-study/weloveweathertv