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Maintaining Participant Integrity – Ethics and Fieldwork in Online Video Games

Matilda Ståhl (Åbo Akademi University, Finland)
Fredrik Rusk (Åbo Akademi University, Finland)

Ethics, Ethnography and Education

ISBN: 978-1-83982-247-6, eISBN: 978-1-80071-008-5

Publication date: 23 June 2022


Employing ethnographic methods online offers additional understanding of how online contexts are connected to education (Rusk, 2019; Ståhl & Kaihovirta, 2019; Ståhl & Rusk, 2020). As society evolves, new challenges arise for ethnography to claim its position as a methodology for understanding human sociality. For example, the definition of fieldwork might become blurred when the researcher has constant access to the field from their computer, and accessing a participant's perspective is made more complex when there is no, or limited, face-to-face interaction with participants (Beaulieu, 2004; Shumar & Madison, 2013). This chapter discusses some of the challenges experienced during the process of employing ethnographic methods with students playing the online multiplayer video game Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO, Valve Corporation & Hidden Path Entertainment, 2012) within an educational context. The challenges included maintaining participant integrity in terms of gaining informed consent from players that became co-observed, defining privacy online during the analysis and in dissemination and portraying participants accurately despite stakeholder interests. These challenges are discussed in relation to maintaining research ethics in situ together with participants and with the research context in mind. The intention is not to portray our approach as best practice, but rather to highlight and discuss the challenges faced.




Initially, we wish to thank the participants that willingly shared highly personal data with us so that we as researchers better could understand what online gaming was to them! We wish to thank the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, Victoria-stiftelsen, Stiftelsen för Åbo Akademi and Högskolestiftelsen i Österbotten for research funding and travel expenses on behalf of Ståhl during the process of this chapter. We also wish to thank Inga, Valdemar, Anna-Lisa och Inga-Brita Westbergsfond for covering travel expenses during the data collection phase.


Ståhl, M. and Rusk, F. (2022), "Maintaining Participant Integrity – Ethics and Fieldwork in Online Video Games", Russell, L., Barley, R. and Tummons, J. (Ed.) Ethics, Ethnography and Education (Studies in Educational Ethnography, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 87-107.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Matilda Ståhl and Fredrik Rusk. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited