Hey OAC, thought I would introduce myself and ask people's opinion on something I've been working on. I'm a PhD candidate at Texas A&M, writing my dissertation on story, play, and imagination in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs, and am currently in the last few days of a Kickstarter to fund my fieldwork for that research.
It's been a very positive experience, and one that has pushed me towards openness even in the early stages of my research process. In preparing for the Kickstarter campaign, I saw a few other dissertations out there, and there are also sites devoted to crowdfunding research, like Microryza.com. I also came across an article written by Antero Garcia that described crowdfunding as adding "public review" to peer review. Beyond the openness of this approach, I've also appreciated the way that it makes tangible my ethical obligations to the community of study. Most of my backers are gamers themselves, and I'm looking forward to interacting with them over the course of my research. I've been doing a Youtube series talking through some of what I've already written, and have had a really good response.
So I suppose my question is how you all think this ties in with the broader goals of a more open and publicly engaged anthropology. I'm obviously giving it a shot with this Kickstarter, but it's definitely something of an experiment.
[Obligatory link to the Kickstarter itself, and a plea to pass on the link to anyone you know who might be interested.]
Thanks for sharing this, Nicholas. I certainly think there's potential for Kickstarter to open up access to anthropological research. There are still going to be ways that anthropologists are potentially constrained from engaging with Kickstarter because of the niche nature of a lot ethnography. In that respect it is ideally suited to research like yours, where there is a definite field of interest among non-specialists (i.e. fans of gaming, that's a big pool), and you can monetize the donation categories/rewards in an attractive way. I think you've done this really well with a mix of research output and gamer collectibles. Good luck with the 10k option!
There is definitely a lot we can all learn about public engagement just in the way a Kickstarter proposal needs to be written up. We should get more used to converting the language and style of our usual proposals into something more attractive and engaging. What I also like about how you've set it up is that just within the scope of your Kickstarter there is already potential for the research to extend and grow in new directions and pull in other participants.
Of course an ethnographic project that is, say, based in a village, with a duration of more than 12 weeks total, potential ethical hazards in going public so early, and no place for plushie dolls, might be more difficult to swing. I hope you'll keep us updated on your progress and maybe cross post a few entries from your research blog so we can follow along.