Researching Kink Communities on Twitter: Obstacles and Potential (experiences from the field): Digital Culture 2019

Jaime Garcia Iglesias

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The popularity of social networking sites such as Tumblr and Twitter has provided unique venues for kink communities to co-create narratives and cultural products. While this has allowed researchers access to these communities, it also poses unique challenges such as accessing communities ethically, preserving participant privacy in the face of pervasive data breaches and archiving the materials. In the particular case of kink communities, some inroads have been made regarding hook-up apps, mediating infrastructures and their relationship to the offline world (Race 2015, Mowlabocus 2010). However, little work has taken a reflexive approach when considering the ethics of accessing these sites. This paper reflects on my research on bugchasing communities on Twitter where bugchasing, the fetish of seeking HIV infection, has found an environment to thrive. Icreated a Twitter profile for my research to which I uploaded anonymized quotes, questions, etc. I also used the profile to engage in conversations with bugchasers and obtain interview participants. The creation of a Twitter profile allowed me to gain unprecedented participant-observer access to bugchasing groups online, but also presented challenges: was Twitter mediating who I engage to? Was the data of those interactions anonymous? Was I legitimizing troubling practices? Was my profilemisinterpreted? In this presentation, I address these concerns by presenting excerpts from my research journal alongside interview material where I ask participants about their reaction to my profile. I argue that online networks may present obstacles for sampling and participant expectation but also that they provide effective accountability to the communities under study.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2019


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