Field Ethics: Towards Situated Ethics for Ethnographic Research on the Internet


  • Adolfo Estalella Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
  • Elisenda Ardèvol Universitat Oberta de Catalunya



virtual ethnography, Internet ethnography, ethics, blogs, ethics in qualitative research, mutuality


This article reflects openly on the decisions that researchers have to deal with when undertaking qualitative research, especially ethnography, on the Internet. Our argument takes as starting point the ethical guidelines already developed for human subject research, and the way Internet researchers have tried to adapt these guidelines to their field. We argue that many of these ethical recommendations for researching the Internet have been designed according to specific applications (a chat, a mailing list, a blog, etc.), conferring specific properties to technology and making inferences about the kind of interaction that is taking place through such devices (public or private, for instance). We question these approaches and consider that the attribution of properties to technology restricts the scope of the ethical decisions that the researcher can make. We advocate a dialogical and situated ethical practice that takes into account every particular context when making any ethical decision during research. In line with this proposal, we report some ethical dilemmas that we have had to face in our own fieldwork on blogging practices among Spanish bloggers. We also draw on our experience of creating a "field blog" as part of our research. We describe three axes that have helped us to guide our ethical decisions in the field: the scope of individual data collected for participants in the course of research, the explicit and open presence of the researchers, and the search for symmetry and mutuality with our respondents in the field. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs070328


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Author Biographies

Adolfo Estalella, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Adolfo ESTALELLA es candidato a doctor en el Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). Actualmente ha realizado para su tesis doctoral una etnografía de las prácticas blogger.

Elisenda Ardèvol, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Elisenda ARDÈVOL es Doctora en Filosofía y Letras por la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (1995) con la tesis La mirada antropológica o la antropología de la mirada, sobre la representación audiovisual de las culturas y la imagen como técnica de investigación etnográfica. Ha trabajado de profesora asociada en la University of Southern California (Department of Anthropology, Los Ángeles, 1997) y en la Facultad de Comunicación Audiovisual de la Universidad Ramon Llull. Actualmente, es profesora de Antropología en los Estudios de Humanidades de la UOC. Su trabajo de investigación se enmarca en las áreas de la antropología social y cultural, la antropología de la comunicación audiovisual, el cine etnográfico, las metodologías cualitativas, las comunidades virtuales, la cibercultura y la etnografía online.



How to Cite

Estalella, A., & Ardèvol, E. (2007). Field Ethics: Towards Situated Ethics for Ethnographic Research on the Internet. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 8(3).



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