Doing ethnographic fieldwork in data-saturated environments is fraught with ethical concerns in all kinds of new and surprising ways that we’re only slowly getting a handle on. Because of that, not many resources exist yet to guide contemporary ethnographic researchers.
My class at Leiden University, Ethics in Contemporary Ethnographic Research, which we offered for the first time this spring as part of our bachelor’s program in Cultural Sociology and Development Sociology, aims to equip students with the knowledge, skills and awareness they need to navigate field sites. Hoping to address the dearth of resources and thereby scratch our own itch, students spent part of the course developing resources for all ethnographers to draw on as they navigate ethical challenges in field research.
Inspired by the figure of the hacker (understood as “a person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular”), the practice of ethical hacking as well as the hacker ethic, students put together resources for a public-facing collection called Hacking Ethnography. Contributions took the shape of instructional videos, websites, and zines.
It was a wonderful assignment that we will surely repeat next year. Here is a selection of ten sites and zines created this year. See for yourself how much research and creativity our students put into their contributions!
How to Conduct Ethnography in Occupied Palestine/Israel: A Brief Guide
Hacking Ethnography: Social Media Research: A curated collection of resources for ethical social media research.
Sensitive Research Considerations: A list of potential issues ethnographers face—and ways to avoid them.