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Cloak of Invisibility: Perceived Privacy and the Ethical Study of Digital Fan Culture

March 26, 2019 @ 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm


Dr. Suzanne Scott (The University of Texas at Austin) // March 26th, 2019 // 3:30pm-4:30pm // Jesse H. Jones Communication Center (CMA) 5.136

What ethical challenges arise when scholars research the passionate fan communities that surround popular films, games, or books? Because many academics studying fan culture self-identify as fans and also participate in the fan communities they study, there has long been an unspoken “fans first” policy governing approaches to ethics in the field. But what happens when we ethically feel we owe our research subjects more protections than those required by our Internal Review Boards (IRB), and if so, what motivates this and would these protections meaningfully look like? This presentation will contextualize ongoing ethical debates around whether fan discourse and forms of textual production (like fanfiction or fanart) should be conceptually approached as “texts” or “people.” Through a survey of these histories and core ethical debates, we will explore several interrelated issues ranging from the perceived privacy of fan communities to the ethical best practices of researching industry/fan interactions through contemporary case studies.

Dr. Suzanne Scott is an assistant professor in the Department of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research and teaching interests include fan studies, media convergence, digital and participatory culture, social media, transmedia storytelling, comic book culture, and gender studies. Dr. Scott’s current book project, “Fake Geek Girls: Fandom, Gender, and the Convergence Culture Industry” (NYU Press, April 2019), considers the gendered tensions underpinning the media industry’s embrace of fans as demographic tastemakers, professionals, and promotional partners within convergence culture.

The Media Ethics Initiative is part of the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. Media Ethics Initiative events are free and open to the public.


March 26, 2019
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm