Research and Ethics

Background Research

It’s no surprise that significant research has been done surrounding fandoms and fan studies, and that research is incredibly relevant to my own media niche and project. However, Paul Booth (2010) brings forth an idea which I plan on exploring in my own research project:

“Fan communities have always been the object of study in fan studies, but usually from the point of view from the individual fan’s contribution to the whole. I ask, instead, what of the contribution of the community to the whole?”

While Booth discusses this further in his book, the research is over 10 years old and is therefore somewhat outdated. Additionally, it’s important to be considered but isn’t directly relevant to my research project.

Ethnographic research surrounding fan studies (including that of Henry Jenkins, Lucy Bennett, Constance Penley, and John Tulloch) is part of the foundation of my research project and will be referenced consistently in the final project. However, I’d like to dig a little deeper to specifically examine the fan-base surrounding A24.

While Majumdar and Mallett (n.d) released a detailed analysis of A24, they don’t delve into depth surrounding the A24 fandom, rather focusing on the brand itself. However, Junction 43 and Fandom have individually released articles pertaining to the cult following which A24 has accumulated. However, these articles aren’t written autoethnographically and I therefore feel that autoethnographic research would be of use.

The act of notetaking for this specific research involves journal-like notes with screenshots to record evidence. However, Emerson et al. state that “while universal guidelines for writing fieldnotes [sic] are quixotic, one can develop specific guidelines appropriate to a particular understanding of ethnographic research” (2011). Therefore, as my research continues on I may have to adapt my methods slightly to fit the project.

Ethical Issues

As a researcher, I have a duty to my topic as well as any knowing or unknowing participants. For that reason, it’s important for me to ensure that my research is doing no harm in any possible way. Some potential ethical issues which may arise include:

  • Showing someone’s name, username, and/or image. To avoid this, I’ll ensure that all participants are completely anonymous.
  • Accidentally taking something out of context. To avoid this, I will not directly quote people and rather focus my studies on my personal experiences and observation. Additionally, situations will be described in detail to ensure that conversations or meanings are well-understood and I will be “actively listening” (Winter & Lavis, 2020) to accurately portray any meanings.
  • Personal bias. As someone who is actively part of the fan-base in question, I’ll ensure that I’m including accurate views depicted on social media sites, including any criticisms of A24 or specific posts. This should help to eliminate any personal bias which I’ve unintentionally inserted.

By actively listening and taking appropriate precautions, I should be able to create an ethically sound research project which causes no harm whatsoever.


References

Booth, P 2020, Digital Fandom: New Media Studies, Peter Lang

Panchali, M, Mallett, K n.d., Analysis of an Independent Distribution Company: A24

Jenkins, H 2014, ‘Fandom studies as I see it’,  The Journal of Fandom Studies, vol. 2, no. 2

Bennett, L 2014, ‘Tracing Textual Poachers: Reflections on the development of fan studies and digital fandom’, The Journal of Fandom Studies, vol. 2, no. 2

Newton, T 2017, ‘Why You Should Know A24 Films’, Fandom

Pang, N 2019, ‘How to build a cult brand in a crowded market: Lessons from A24’, Junction 43

Emerson, R Fretz, R & Shaw, L 2011, Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Second Edition

Winter, R & Lavis, A 2020, ‘Looking, But Not Listening? Theorizing the Practice and Ethics of Online Ethnography’, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, vol. 15, pp. 55-62

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