The ethics of studying online fandom

Authored by: Kristina Busse

The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138638921
eBook ISBN: 9781315637518
Adobe ISBN:


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Like many acafans of my generation, I came to fandom studies by being a fan first, and that model has remained my central ethical guideline. I engage with fandom as a participant–observer, who reveals her academic and fan status, and I share my academic writing in stages with not only my fannish friends but also anyone I reference or cite. If there is any conflict between the academic and the fannish self, the simple plan goes — the academic has to give way. In fact, when Karen Hellekson and I founded the first fan studies journal, Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) in 2007, we established an editorial attribution policy that emphasized fannish community standards over traditional humanities conventions. In the submission policies, we “strongly recommend … that permission be obtained from the creator for any fan work or blog post cited in a submitted article” and encourage authors not to use direct URLs for fan blog sites. Two years later, we expanded and explained our decision in “Fan Privacy and TWC’s Editorial Philosophy” (Hellekson and Busse 2009), which laid the groundwork for our “Identity, Ethics, and Fan Privacy” (Busse and Hellekson 2012). The reasons for this were manifold, but foremost it was TWC’s affiliation with the fan advocacy nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works and our own identification as fans.

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