Between overt and covert research: concealment and disclosure in an ethnographic study of commercial hospitality
acm: InformationSystems_MISCELLANEOUS | ComputingMilieux_COMPUTERSANDSOCIETY | Data_CODINGANDINFORMATIONTHEORY | ComputingMilieux_MANAGEMENTOFCOMPUTINGANDINFORMATIONSYSTEMS
This article examines the ways in which problems of concealment emerged in an ethnographic study of a suburban bar and considers how disclosure of the research aims, the recruitment of informants, and elicitation of information was negotiated throughout the fieldwork. The case study demonstrates how the social context and the relationships with specific informants determined overtness or covertness in the research. It is argued that the existing literature on covert research and covert methods provides an inappropriate frame of reference with which to understand concealment in fieldwork. The article illustrates why concealment is sometimes necessary, and often unavoidable, and concludes that the criticisms leveled against covert methods should not stop the fieldworker from engaging in research that involves covertness.