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Internet research ethics


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Which ethics apply to Internet research? If the Internet is conceptualised as space, then social science research ethics apply. However, if it is conceptualised as text/art, then the ethics of the humanities are more relevant.

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Internet research ethics

  1. 1. Internet Research Ethics Rebecca Ferguson, IET
  2. 2. Do no harm <ul><li>Autonomy </li></ul><ul><li>Treat people with respect </li></ul><ul><li>Beneficence </li></ul><ul><li>Maximise benefit. Minimise harm </li></ul><ul><li>Justice </li></ul><ul><li>Who does the work? Who benefits? </li></ul>Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  3. 3. Online ethics: classic references <ul><li>Cyberporn </li></ul><ul><li>Marty Rimm, Time magazine </li></ul><ul><li>JennyMUSH </li></ul><ul><li>Elizabeth Reid: Informed Consent in the Study of Online Communities: A Reflection on the Effects of Computer-Mediated Social Research </li></ul><ul><li>Rape in cyberspace </li></ul><ul><li>Julian Dibbell (1988) My Tiny Life </li></ul>Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  4. 4. Ethical advantages <ul><li>Access to voices that would not be heard </li></ul><ul><li>Comprehensive and representative </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits of reflecting on own experience </li></ul><ul><li>Clarification and empowerment in interviews </li></ul>Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson So, how do we act ethically online?
  5. 5. Ethical or non-ethical? Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson ‘ It's amazing how appealing things like cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry and checking email become when you're supposed to be studying.’ ‘ Back to my father, who I found in such pain that I could not bear the sight of it without weeping.’
  6. 6. Internet as space Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  7. 7. Internet as text Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  8. 8. Social science ethics <ul><li>Privacy, confidentiality </li></ul><ul><li>Reasons for selecting subjects </li></ul><ul><li>Misrepresentation: backstage areas </li></ul><ul><li>Informed consent: age, competency, typist problem </li></ul><ul><li>Sampling: location, gender, race </li></ul><ul><li>Follow up in fluid communities </li></ul><ul><li>Data impoverished by anonymity </li></ul>Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  9. 9. Humanities ethics <ul><li>Identify and locate sources </li></ul><ul><li>Reasons for selecting media </li></ul><ul><li>Who do you credit for an avatar? </li></ul><ul><li>Does text belong to individuals or communities? </li></ul><ul><li>Copyright, intellectual property rights </li></ul><ul><li>Data protection </li></ul><ul><li>Data impoverished by avoiding online sources </li></ul>Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  10. 10. Competing ethical systems <ul><li>Human rights / ownership rights </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymity / copyright </li></ul><ul><li>Private data / public data </li></ul><ul><li>Validating bloggers or multinationals </li></ul><ul><li>Not just one lens / one metaphor </li></ul>Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  11. 11. Questions to ask <ul><li>First principles: is anyone being harmed? </li></ul><ul><li>Publicly accessible or publicly distributed? </li></ul><ul><li>Statements of intention or gatekeepers? </li></ul><ul><li>Do they consider their environment private or public? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is being addressed? </li></ul><ul><li>Do they understand caches and search engines? </li></ul><ul><li>A continuing dialogue... </li></ul>Internet Research Ethics - Rebecca Ferguson
  12. 12. Rebecca Ferguson IET, The Open University Walton Hall Milton Keynes MK7 6AA <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>