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Pennv3

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  • 1. DIGITAL METHODS ETHICAL CHALLENGES October 10, 2013 DR. KATY PEARCE, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON @KATYPEARCE MAINTAINING DISTANCE DEVELOPING TRUST PROTECTING SOURCES ONLINE & OFFLINE IN AN AUTHORITARIAN CONTEXT
  • 2. 2 RESEARCH FIELDS Authoritarian Digital ISSUES PROCEDURAL INTENTION RISK DATA BOUNDARIES
  • 3. 3 Challenge/Benefit •Access Authoritarianism •Researchers face access barriers – getting visas, funding to do fieldwork, language and culture differences, finding willing participants, building rapport Digital •Easier to find individuals, easier to find time to conduct interviews •Allows for participants to have greater reflection than in a face-to- face interview Combined •Access issues are aided by the Internet •A question of representativeness arises •The Internet is beneficial for access to authoritarian states PROCEDURAL ISSUES Challenge/Benefit •Developing trust and establishing credibility Authoritarianism •Make or break •Very difficult to establish •Researchers are assumed to be spies •Trust and credibility can be helped by demonstrating specific knowledge •Using connections and dropping names can help Digital •Difficult to demonstrate authenticity in a mediated environment •Rapport can be build online in a different way •Self-presentation online can be carefully crafted •Researchers can make credentials available online Combined •Have trusted connections introduce researcher online •Let Facebook be your character witness •Thus, authoritarian + digital can make for an easier path to trust building, although it also presents new challenges
  • 4. 4 Challenge/Benefit •Privacy and surveillance Authoritarianism •Is anything private in an authoritarian context? •Surveillance is very real Digital •Digital traces are very real as well •Is information posted on a social media site public or private? Combined •The combination of surveillance states and digital records creates a more dangerous risk than either method alone INTENTION ISSUES Challenge/Benefit •Providing information to oppressors Authoritarianism •Published analyses can give information to those in power about organizational structures, for example, which can be used against individuals or groups Digital •While social media connections may technically be public, analyses that take that data and create patterns from it are now accessible Combined •Consider the value of posting these type of analyses online – who is benefitting? •Some feel that analyses should be made public •A cost/benefit analysis may be required before making analyses available
  • 5. 5 Challenge/Benefit •Personal risk to participants Authoritarianism •Participants can take on great risk to speak to a researcher Digital •Digital traces can increase likelihood of information getting out Combined •Digital may make risks to participants seem less, but may increase risk because of digital records RISK ISSUES Challenge/Benefit •Personal risk to researcher Authoritarianism •IRB cares more about participants than researcher •Researcher can easily risk denial of visa or slanderous content Digital •Research in a digital space may not be considered as authentic Combined •Digital-based research may reduce risks for researchers •Outcomes of angering governments do not differ in the digital space or non-digital space •Digital research is safer, but not completely safe
  • 6. 6 Challenge/Benefit •Representativeness of sample Authoritarianism •Those willing to speak to a researcher face-to- face are not representative of the general population Digital •Those online are not representative of the general population Combined •It is possible that an online interview may seem safer than speaking face-to- face and new participants can be reached •However, those online and willing to speak to a researcher are especially not representative and inferences must acknowledge this DATA ISSUES Challenge/Benefit •Disclosure Authoritarianism •Long periods of time without freedom of expression result in low disclosure •The social norm is to not disclose •Snowball sampling can help with this issue Digital •Mediated nature of online communication helps participant feel more at ease when disclosing Combined •Thus, authoritarian + digital can create a more comfortable space for disclosure
  • 7. 7 Challenge/Benefit •Power dynamics Authoritarianism •Power inequalities impact every stage of research Digital •Digital skills may impact power dynamics •Social media may feel equalizing though - “we’re both Facebook users, not citizens of different countries” Combined •Power inequalities may be more present in social media – participants can see the “other life” of the researcher •Social media can also be a place to demonstrate their commitment to reducing power inequalities •Power inequalities cannot be erased online but social media can provide opportunities to address the issue BOUNDARY ISSUES Challenge/Benefit •Blurred lines Authoritarianism •Friendships or relations in an authoritarian state increase risk for all involved •When does friendship begin and research end? Digital •Online contexts and social media blur lines between friend and researcher •If a research subject is a “friend” and posts things online, where is the informed consent? Combined •Should a researcher have a disclaimer or consent agreement when accepting friend requests? How does the digital space differ from face-to-face?
  • 8. 8 TAKEAWAYS The Internet does help researchers better access authoritarian states because it allows for a different kind of data collection as well as provides opportunities for researchers to build reputations and rapport with potential participants BENEFITS CHALLENGES Internet-based research in authoritarian states is perhaps safer but not risk-free and digital traces and ability for surveillance may in fact create a different kind of risk for participants and researchers With the sampling challenges in both fields, representativeness is challenging for digital authoritarian research and researchers must be cautious about making inferences Social media especially blurs lines between participant- researcher relationships and "friendship" as well as power inequalities But since access & trust are everything in research, digital is an opportunity; but reflexivity is essential
  • 9. THANK YOU 9

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