The Tricky World of Computer Ethics

Being pretty well-versed in traditional ethnography, I am relatively familiar with the general ethics outlines of getting group permission for gathering certain types of information. I have even conducted medical anthropology in the field and had to deal with getting permission for individual participants (after overall project approval from the Board though) and experience formulating questions that would keep things within ethical requirements. However, my ethnography of YA fan fiction puts things into a different perspective. I think it could even help me to learn even more and grow as a researcher, especially since I have always been fascinated by online ethnographies (netnographies).

The only issue is that they are actually different from traditional ethnographies in terms of ethics. Specific guidelines are involved as to citing posters, how to cite them, when to ask permission, and when permission is not necessary. Thankfully, I stumbled across an awesome resource from 2002 called “The Field Behind the Screen: Using Netnography for Marketing Research in Online Communities” by Robert V. Kozinets. It is available at in addition to the “Journal of Marketing Research.” While it is not specifically targeted toward academic research, there are great tips on collecting data and analyzing it in an ethical way.

Kozinets, Robert V. (2002), “The Field Behind the Screen: Using
Netnography for Marketing Research in Online Communities,”
Journal of Marketing Research, 39 (February), 61-72.

-Brooke Windsor



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2 responses to “The Tricky World of Computer Ethics

  1. Thanks Brooke for sharing the link to the article by Robert V. Kozinets. This is the first time I come across the term “netnography.” It is good that this kind of research is getting special attention. I imagine that it will be a popular method of doing research in the future!


  2. annastandish

    Hi Brooke, my own topic brought me to the wonderful world of netography. I’m sure you’ve gathered your own citation collection, but at the risk of duplicating your findings, here are a couple articles that I found useful:

    [] builds on Kozinets, especially with regards to ethics in studies involving sensitive topics.

    And [] is a fairly recent (2011) and concise roundup of online unobtrusive research studies, if unobtrusive methods are your cup of tea.


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