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Beyond Methodology - ethical implications of doing online research
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This is my presentation at the conference "General Online Research" (March 5, 2013, in Mannheim). Please note: I had to leave out very important issues (such as obtaining consent and publication of ...

This is my presentation at the conference "General Online Research" (March 5, 2013, in Mannheim). Please note: I had to leave out very important issues (such as obtaining consent and publication of data) due to time constraints. You will find some information on that in the "Appendix", i.e. the last four slides :)

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Beyond Methodology - ethical implications of doing online research Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Beyond methodologyEthical implications of “doing research online”Nele Heise, M. A.“General Online Research”March 5, 2013, Mannheim
  • 2. The charms of doing research online• economical reasons (time, costs) and “convenience”• web as a „science laboratory“: Comprehensive logging and storage,easily accessible archive of communication and interaction processes• Richness of data (“big data”), ease of field access, better conditions forspecific methods e.g. observational analysisDilemma: technical feasibility vs. ethical acceptability Online Research EthicsMarket research: complex regulatory framework (e.g. AGOF)Academic research: few guidelines (e.g. AoIR), especially in theGerman context (e.g. Döring 1999, Dzeyk 2001, Schmidt 2009)Heise | Online Research Ethics 2
  • 3. Project on Internet Research Ethics (2010-2011)• Document analysis of a virtual working group (AG Ethik im Social Web) &qualitative interviews with 17 German (academic) internet researchers[different methodological and thematic foci, phases of academic career]• objective: exploration of potential ethical conflicts in online research• Key findings:application of ethical standards (e.g. anonymization or obtaining “informedconsent”) not problematic with conventional methodsproblems and insecurities occur in regard with innovative online methods (e.g.avatar-based research), new research objects (e.g. social networks) and/or dueto new practices of usage (e.g. publication vs. conversation in SNS):: Background ::Heise | Online Research Ethics 3
  • 4. One conclusion of the Project“Many conflicts arise due to breaches of normsand/or standards of online communication”Heise | Online Research Ethics 4
  • 5. Preconditions of online based research5• (spatial and temporal) de-contextualization• Disembodiment, virtualization (textuality)• informational constraints: degree of social presence, anonymity• Blurring boundaries of publicity and privacy (data, “spaces”)Heise | Online Research EthicsOnline based research is a form ofcomputer-mediated communication
  • 6. Researcher role• ethical standards of research• technical / methodological requirements of research• research experience / practicesUser role • principles of communication ethics• rules of media use (e.g. netiquettes)• individual media literacy/competence“Hybridity” of online research contexts• technical & social frames of media practices• characteristics of online communication• terms of use, rights of the providers• individual ethical argumentation• fidelity & responsibilityhybrid role6Heise | Online Research Ethics
  • 7. Wolff (2007) Beck (2010)“Personalität” ComprehensibilityReciprocity RightnessAuthenticity ThruthTruthfulness Truthfulness7Heise | Online Research EthicsEthical principles of online communication
  • 8. Wolff (2007) Beck (2010)“Personalität” ComprehensibilityReciprocity RightnessAuthenticity ThruthTruthfulness Truthfulness8Heise | Online Research EthicsEthical principles of online communicationSee also: Heise (2013, forthcoming)
  • 9. Truth & Truthfulness• congruency of saying and reality & obligation to speak the truth;complete and true information about identity and communicationaims/goals, otherwise: failure of communicationinformational constraints for verification (data, user accounts etc.)and identification/authentication“visibility” of researchers and disclosure of research (e.g. “fakeprofiles”)9Ethical Principles & Research PracticeHeise | Online Research Ethics
  • 10. “As a participant I have greater autonomy (…) so I can leave situationseasier that are unpleasant for me. On the other hand, I am cut off ofinformation. (…) as a participant I have to trust a bit more, because thesetting might be harder to grasp. If I go to an experiment at a university andthe door sign of the person that invited me says ‘Mr./Ms. X’, also I can see inwhich department this takes place (…) so, there I have more hints pointingto the seriousness of the research. On the internet, this is harder tounderstand. Also, it is easier to pretend things or to give false facts. (…).There is a bigger informational insecurity for participants. At the sametime, they have a greater scope for actions and can drop off more easilythan in a f2f-situation.”[media psychologist, online games research]10Ethical Principles & Research PracticeHeise | Online Research Ethics
  • 11. Rightness or “Richtigkeit”• Appropriateness of communication with regard to the relationshipbetween two interaction partnersAccess to online “spaces”Recruitment of participantsAmbivalence of methods (data mining, log file analysis, profiling)11Ethical Principles & Research PracticeHeise | Online Research EthicsAuthenticity• to act as you yourself, undisguised and be open-minded, but:selective authenticity to safeguard privacyshifting boundaries of privacy & publicity (data, practices) as well asprivate and professional life, and “equivalency of context”
  • 12. “At the very moment at which Im registered, I accept the rules of thecommunity, and agree that I will follow them. (…) Not I as a researcherdefine: what I am doing, what Im citing or publishing is unproblematic, noproblem. The complete opposite is true: the group sets the boundaries. (…)I as a researcher have a kind of ‘Holschuld’, a duty to obtain their consent.”[research assistant, online observational analysis]“as social scientists, working with media users, we all know that mediausage is not always rational. I cannot assume that (…) it is a consciousdecision if someone is not using his/her privacy settings. (…) You must givethe users some credit, because you cannot take for granted that you canuse it, only because it is not secured.“[research assistant, online games research]12Ethical Principles & Research PracticeHeise | Online Research Ethics
  • 13. “it is not just (…) a technology, an infrastructure, which is simply there.Instead it is appropriated and it has a specific meaning to us. If you aregoing to MySpace you do different things than on Facebook (…) these arevery different spaces or Lebenswelten, with different functions andmeanings. Once you acknowledge that (…) we as researchers have to take acertain position: not to sniff around and observe everything because it iseasily accessible, but instead to be aware of the fact that these spaces aremade by people for themselves. (…) Although it is easily technicallyaccessible in principle.”[doctoral student, qualitative analysis of self-representation in SNS]13Ethical Principles & Research PracticeHeise | Online Research Ethics
  • 14. Some final remarks• “disenchantment“ of online based research• Ethics of online communication as a chance to carry out ethicalresearch in a very dynamic field• importance of online communication ethics due to the ‘hybridrole’ as researcher/user, e.g. selective authenticity• Reconsideration of the value of trust and responsibilities• Prospective reflection of communicative settings and strategies(as an important part of ethical consideration)• integration in teaching and methodological discourses14Heise | Online Research Ethics
  • 15. Thanks for your attention!Nele Heise, M. A.Hans Bredow Institute, Hamburgn.heise@hans-bredow-institut.de@neleheisehttp://de.slideshare.net/garneleh
  • 16. ReferencesBeck, K. (2010). Ethik der Online-Kommunikation. In W. Schweiger & K. Beck (Eds.), Handbuch Online-Kommunikation (pp. 130-155). Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag.Burgess, J. & Bruns, A. (2012). Twitter Archives and the Challenges of ‘Big Social Data’ for Media and Communication Research. M/C Journal, 15 (5). Retrievedfrom: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/561 (November 22, 2012).Döring, N. (1999). Sozialpsychologie des Internet: die Bedeutung des Internet für Kommunikationsprozesse, Identitäten, soziale Beziehungen und Gruppen.Göttingen: Hogrefe.Dzeyk, W. (2001). Ethische Dimensionen der Online-Forschung. Kölner Psychologische Studien 6(1), 1-30. Retrieved from: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/volltexte/2008/2424/pdf/ethdimon.pdf (January 21, 2011).Eynon, R., Schroeder, R. & Fry, J. (2009). New Techniques in Online Research. Challenges for Research Ethics. 21st Century Society 4(2), 187-199.Fraas, C., Meier, S. & Pentzold, C. (2012). Online-Kommunikation. Grundlagen, Praxisfelder und Methoden. Wien: Oldenbourg Verlag.Hamilton, R. J. & Bowers, B. J. (2006). Internet Recruitment and E-Mail Interviews in Qualitative Studies. Qualitative Health Research 16(6), 821-835.Heise, N. (2013, forthcoming). “Doing it for real”. Authentizität als kommunikationsethische Voraussetzung onlinebasierter Forschung. In M. Emmer & I. Stapf(Eds.), Authentizität in der computervermittelten Kommunikation. Weinheim: Juventa.Heise, N. & Schmidt, J.-H. (2013, forthcoming): Ethik der Onlineforschung. In M. Welker et al. (Eds.), Handbuch Onlineforschung. Köln: Herbert von Halem.Markham, A. (2012). Fabrication as ethical practice: Qualitative inquiry in ambiguous internet contexts. Information, Communication & Society, 5 (3), 334-353.Markham, A. & Buchanan, E. (2012). Ethical Decision Making and Internet Research: Version 2.0. Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee. FinalDraft, endorsed by the AoIR Executive Committee. Retrieved from: http://ijire.net/aoirethics/aoirethicsprintablecopy.pdf (November 16, 2012).McKee, H. & Porter, J. E. (2009). The Ethics of Internet Research. A Rhetorical, Case-Based Process. New York: Peter Lang.Nentwich, M. & König, R. (2012). Cyberscience 2.0. Research in the Age of Digital Social Networks. Frankfurt/M.: Campus Verlag.Schmidt, J.-H. (2009). Braucht das Web 2.0 eine eigene Forschungsethik? Zeitschrift für Kommunikationsökologie und Medienethik 11(2), 38-42.Strohm Kitchener, K. & Kitchener, R. F. (2009): Social Research Ethics. Historical and Philosophical Issues. In D. MMertens,. & Ginsberg, P. E. (Eds.), The Handbookof Social Research Ethics (pp. 5-22). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Trevisan, F. & Reilly, P. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas in Researching Social Media Campaigns on Sensitive Personal Issues: Lessons from the Study of British DisabilityDissent Networks. Paper presented at the 4th European Communication Conference, October 24-26, 2012, Istanbul. Retrieved from:http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2164729 (February 27, 2013).Welker, M. & Matzat, U. (2009). Online-Forschung: Gegenstände, Entwicklung, Institutionalisierung und Ausdifferenzierung eines neuen Forschungszweiges. In N.Jackob, H. Schoen & T. Zerback (Eds.), Sozialforschung im Internet: Methodologie und Praxis der Online-Befragung (pp. 33-47). Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag.Wolff, O. J. (2007). Kommunikationsethik des Internets: eine anthropologisch-theologische Grundlegung. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač.Ziegaus, S. (2009). Die Abhängigkeit der Sozialwissenschaften von ihren Medien. Grundlagen einer kommunikativen Sozialforschung. Bielefeld: transcript.Zimmer, M. (2010). “But the data is already public”: on the ethics of research on Facebook. Ethics and Information Technology, 12 (4), 313-326.
  • 17. Context sensitivity and online research“There cannot be a blanket, whole cloth approach to Internet Research ethics.Contextual details matter, including: What, exactly, is the object of analysis of thestudy – texts, aggregated bits of information, or the persons themselves? What arethe use expectations of the online site and of the online participants? What is thesensitivity of the information collected? What are the ages, geo-cultural-politicalaffiliations, and/or technological expertise of the online participants? In what formare the researchers collecting data, and in what forms are they re-distributing it? Isthe researcher using real names or real user/avatar names, quoting passages,taking screenshots, etc.? And where will this material appear and to whom will itbe accessible?”McKee & Porter (2009: 7f.)[see also: Heise/Schmidt (forthcoming), Markham/Buchanan 2012]Consequences for:Data collection (privacy/publicity, sensivity and accessibilty of data; involved actors)Publication of Data (anonymization vs. copyright; consent; alternative strategies)17Heise | Online Research Ethics