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Isis In Darkness

an ethnographic study of online media fandom

Kali DeDominicis
9 December
I am a Doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. The working title of my dissertation is "Online Media Fandom and the Construction of Virtual Community."

Basically, I am studying what it means to be a virtual community - how such a thing is created, how it is maintained, and how people enter into and participate in it. I think that online fandom is uniquely suited to this because of how much attention certain portions of fandom devote to discussing just that subject. (For those of you who are confused, or unfamiliar with fan meta discussions, I refer to the tradition of conversations about subjects like whether fandom is a community, what it means to be a community, how this or that technology or trend is affecting fandom's sense of community, etc.) To that end, I will be studying not only what fans have to say about being a community (or not being one), but also how they have those conversations, how they use technology, and what they have to say about their cultural expectations and social interactions.

ATTENTION:This journal is a research tool. It is intended to provoke discussion that may be used in my PhD dissertation and potentially in other published work. As such, I consider all interaction on this journal to be fair use, given with the permission of all participants, unless I am specifically informed otherwise. This means that unless you ask me not to, I might quote or paraphrase your comments to my entries in published or publicly available materials (most likely in academic journals or conference papers).

I do not want to make anyone uncomfortable, nor do I wish to discourage participation. If you want to comment, but do not want your opinion to be used in my dissertation, just say so in your first comment (or in an email or PM at any later date). Otherwise, I am more than happy to answer questions about how individual participation might be used, and to discuss specific measures I can take to make people more comfortable.

Here is what I am already doing to protect people's privacy:

1. I will never use comments that contain personal or identifying details without explicit permission from the author. Similarly, unless the author has specifically asked to be credited, I will 'cite' comments anonymously (For example: "One person said..." rather than "Fan22 said..."). This is to prevent, as much as possible, one individual from being singled out for attention as the representative of this or that position, and to ensure that my published work cannot be used to direct people to my informants' personal journals. (Usernames will, of course, still be attached to the original comments, and particularly tenacious investigators might be able to locate the source in my journal archives. I can do a number of things to prevent this - comment screening being the easiest solution, but by no means the only one - and I will always take the time to find one that suits the preferences of the author in question).

2. As I have already said, if you want to participate in the conversation but do not want me to use your comments in my research, that's fine - just let me know. Conversely, if you do want to be cited, or if you are interested in being interviewed or otherwise becoming a larger part of my research - let me know then, too!

You may give, rescind, or amend the terms of your permission at any time, and there can be as many caveats as you want. For example, you might give me permission to paraphrase your comments but not to quote them; you can allow me to use specific comments without giving me blanket permission to use all your interactions on this journal; you might agree to let me quote you only if I first screen the comment in question... Just tell me what will make you comfortable, and we can work something out.

3. Most of the time, I will summarize whole discussions rather than directly quote any one comment. (For example: "The general consensus was…" or "Opinion was divided between those who argued [x]… and others who believed [y]…"). This is in part for reasons of space (it's easier and often more representative to summarize than to use quotes that portray all facets of the argument in their entirety), and in part for the reasons of privacy outlined in point #1 (if I summarize several people, rather than quoting one, it becomes even harder to trace that opinion, or to pin it on one individual or journal).

4. Even when I do reference a specific comment, I am still more likely to summarize than quote directly. This is again both for reasons of length (participants in online discussions are not known for their brevity, and not all of a comment will necessarily be relevant to my point) and privacy (if I don't use a direct quote, the comment cannot be found using Google search. Direct quotes can be found with a concerted search through my journal archives, but I am, once again, always willing to discuss ways to prevent that).

5. Much of the writing that will be in my final dissertation will appear in some form on my journal first. If you think I am misrepresenting your opinion in some way, or you want your username to be cited (or omitted) as the originator of a particular opinion or comment, you can always contact me, and I will address the problem.

All posts represent my own thoughts and are my own intellectual property, except where otherwise stated. (If I forget to cite a source, or make a mistake in my referencing, please contact me and I will rectify the error as soon as possible). This journal does not reflect the thoughts or opinions of the University of Edinburgh or affiliated individuals.

Permission is given to use or reference these materials in informal contexts (ex. blog posts or forum discussions) as long as they are appropriately referenced and cited, with a link to the original post where possible. Permission to use these materials in a more formal context may be granted on a case-by-case basis by contacting me via email or PM).
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