Follow the trope: A digital (auto)ethnography for fan studies

  • Milena Popova University of the West of England, Bristol
Keywords: Community membership, Digital field sites, Digital field site construction, Fan fiction, Field site construction, Online ethnography


In this paper I investigate the methodological challenges posed by the intersection of two factors commonly found in some types of fan studies research: studying a community one is already a member of and that community existing in a digital setting. I propose an approach shaped by traditional ethnography, digital ethnography, and autoethnography that is theoretically grounded, takes into account both practical and theoretical issues, and seeks to leverage the strengths of the digital environment and the ethnographer's knowledge of the community they are researching. I pay particular attention to the role and positionality of the ethnographer in this environment, as well as the process of field site construction, which I conceptualize as a journey. To illustrate this follow-the-trope approach in action, I present a case study based on my research on sexual consent in fan fiction.

Author Biography

Milena Popova, University of the West of England, Bristol

PhD researcher at the Digital Cultures Research Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol. My research examines erotic and sexually explicit fanfiction as a form of cultural activism around issues of sexual consent.