Background Research & Ethical Concerns

In week one, Hip-Hop in Australia was identified as a media niche that I am interested and have experience in. In the following week, I began to map this niche out. Last week, I began to problematise my media niche and narrowed my topic down to Hip-Hop in Australia and its social commentary for Indigenous Australians. In this week’s blog post, I will consider the ethical concerns of conducting an ethnographic study and begin to source the background research for my digital artefact. Although ethnography was initially challenging to understand, my research for the previous blog posts have taught me a lot.

Background Research

Kevin C. Holt’s Emcee Ethnographies: A Brief Sketch of U.S. Hip-Hop Ethnography (2019) is one of the main secondary sources that will be referenced throughout my digital artefact and has already helped shape the direction of my work. Holt references many other ethnographic studies of Hip-Hop and while none explicitly focus on Australia, the approaches and theoretical frameworks used can be applied to my own study. For example, Holt begins by defining Hip-Hop through analysing how other ethnographers have categorised it either as a musical genre, a cultural movement, an aesthetic or even a feeling (Holt, 2019). This conversation could be included in my first audio episode for my digital artefact, where I could start to define Hip-Hop in Australia and decide what aspect will be focused on for my study. With my problematisation in mind, it’s more likely the musical genre will be analysed to determine the feeling and potential social and cultural change that this has.

Additionally, this source provides a large variety of other ethnographic Hip-Hop studies that I will be investigating, most notably, a book by Tricia Rose titled The Hip-Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip-Hop – And Why It Matters (2008). Rose takes an alternative framework by theorising that Hip-Hop as it exists today is only a shell of a more authentic former self and the mainstream music in recent years is exempt from the realm of Hip-Hop (Rose, 2008). This will be an interesting source to contrast my auto-ethnography and to help define the genre in Australia.

In Andrew Green’s The Ethnography of Hip-Hop Nostalgia (2017), Green explores “the way that Hip-Hop musicians in Mexico City use their creative practice to perpetuate musical traditions associated with indigenous and national identity” (Green, 2017). This will be a useful source in approaching ethnographic research while focusing on one country. Although the observations that Green makes are primarily achieved in person by being at concerts and conducting interviews, my study will be done entirely online by analysing the online public discourse along with my own auto-ethnographic study.

Ethical Concerns

Ethnographers “tend to explain relationships or attitudes or social events by looking for their connections to other-things-happening in a defined analytic whole” (Arnould, 1998). This quote fits perfectly to my media niche and though I’m excited to begin my research, its important to recognise the ethical concerns. In Winter and Lavis’ Looking, But Not Listening? Theorising the Practice and Ethics of Online Ethnography (2020), they believe listening allows researchers to account for how people are speaking online (Winter & Lavis, 2020). This is applicable to the subject of my research such as the music, as well as the reaction to the music from publications and the public. By actively listening and observing, I will be able to make gain insight into my media niche, however, there are still issues of anonymity.

Although the majority of my research will be conducted online, there are still users who are not entirely anonymous but I can avoid any ethical issues by not directly quoting to referring to certain users but instead paraphrase their comments and draw conclusions from my observations across multiple social media platforms. Another ethical concern that I have is using incorrect terminology and discuss the subject matter carelessly. Due to the nature of the topic, I will make sure to use the appropriate language and approach the media niche with empathy and understanding. Furthermore, as an ethical researcher I will ensure I remain respectful and responsible before, during and after my research.

In the next week or so, I will be releasing a pitch video summarising my four blog posts before beginning to release episodes of my digital artefact. Stay tuned!

Frank Tremain.


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