Using hypertext ethnography to understand corporate-stakeholder relations in CSR
Purpose – Within the context of a broader project that analysed CSR practices, this paper seeks to explain a methodological approach to web-based research that the authors call “hypertext ethnography”. This approach aims to enable the paper to focus on the relations between three publicly listed corporations in Australia and the recipients of a selection of their CSR programs. Design/methodology/approach – Informed by ethnographic principles, hypertext ethnography provided the research protocols and analytical frame that were used to deconstruct the meanings in web texts that represented the connections between the corporations and their CSR stakeholders. Findings – The corporations and the stakeholders articulated their perspectives on CSR in affirmative ways, apparently to maintain their positive benefactor-recipient relations. While these discourses held the potential to mask more complex tensions in their relationships, the web was found to provide a rich hypertextual story that had a vastly broader scope than the self-contained corporate and stakeholder agendas. Research limitations/implications – The research approach presented here provides a useful first approximation to the study of CSR, through self representations, and offers a rigorous critical understanding of the practice of CSR. The approach can achieve much with only limited resources, but it could be developed through on-site ethnographic research. Practical implications – Because image-conscious corporations are often reluctant to participate in CSR research, the unobtrusive approach of hypertext ethnography can provide access to important data for the researcher. This is especially significant in the case of critical research, and when the characteristics of the CSR contributions or stakeholder relations are to be investigated. Originality/value – This paper offers a new way for approaching the study of CSR, by taking advantage of rich sources of data that are publicly available. Treating the web texts as primary data and critically analysing them following rigorous research protocols, enable new opportunities for understanding the public representations of CSR.
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Volume (Year): 7 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (February)
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