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Mary Muldowney


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Presented as part of "Realising the Opportunities of Digital Humanities" (#RODH2012)

Oct 23-25, 2012, Ireland.

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Mary Muldowney

  1. 1. Wednesday, 24 October 2012 Panel 1: Intellectual Property, Licensing, Copyright What you can andcannot do with data Dr. Mary Muldowney
  2. 2. Oral history in IrelandOral History Network of Ireland - 2010Best practice in the collection, preservation and use ofrecorded memories of the pastInterviews for my early oral history research: expand on archival sources find often hidden facts about the past access provided by individual experience Influences on the formation of collective memorySo far, so safe – and so arrogant?
  3. 3. Shared authority of the interviewee Evolution of my own oral history practice Ethical dilemmas and consent from research participants Always protect interviewees and honour their wishes Best practice in oral history research is based on trust Relationship between interviewer and interviewee is a collaborative oneMaking recordings available for research and other useshould only happen within a legal and ethical frameworkwhich protects the interests of the interviewees
  4. 4. Andrea Martin:  constitutional right to freedom of expression  constitutional right to privacy  law of confidentiality  image rights protection  copyright lawCollecting Oral Narratives:  performer’s rights Ethics, Best Practice  data protection legislation and the Law Conscientious observation of ethical norms …
  5. 5. Paul Thompson’s Voice of the PastOne of the seminal manuals for thepractice of oral history. In the firstedition, published in 1978, Thompson’sintention was to challenge the criticsof oral history, who came mainly fromthe academic establishment, whosuggested that oral history was neitherlegitimate nor reliable.Oral history facilitates the social andpolitical purpose of recording history –to understand the past in order tomake changes in the present.
  6. 6. Boston College and the Belfast Project Oral History Network of Ireland conference in Ennis Anthony McIntyre presentation Ed Moloney, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur: 40+ interviewees … it was envisaged that the material would be of benefit not merely to historians but also to people involved in conflict resolution and policy making right across the board. If the causes of politically violent conflict can be better understood and anticipated in advance The Pensive Quill then it stands to reason that the potential http://thepensivequill.a for averting such conflict increases. m/2012/10/the-belfast- project-and-boston- college.html
  7. 7. Voices from the Grave: Two Men’s Warin Ireland  Interviews with the late IRA activist Brendan Hughes and the late David Ervine, Ulster Volunteer Force activist and leader of the Progressive Unionist Party  The original agreement with participants - interview material held securely by Boston College until the interviewees died or gave permission for their interviews to be made public  British government and Dolours Price interview  Obligation of the researcher to be true to any guarantees offered to the research participant.
  8. 8. Pragmatically, pledging and maintaining strict confidentialityprovides the foundation of trust and rapport that allowsresearchers to gather valid data to promote understanding ofthe human condition, and provide the basis for rational socialpolicy. In some cases, information shared with a researchermay be so sensitive – and its disclosure so potentiallydamaging – that the fate of the individual may literally rest inthe researcher’s hands. In such situations, both theresearcher’s ethical obligations and the need for a solid bondof trust are clear. If people do not trust researchers, they willnot share sensitive information, and the value of research tosociety will diminish. Ted Palys and John Lowman, “Protecting Research Confidentiality: Towards a ResearchParticipant Shield Law” in Canadian Journal of Law and Society / Revue canadienne droit et société, Volume 21, no. 1, 2000, pp. 163-185.
  9. 9. Ethical dilemmas in oral history/social science interviews Threats to researcher’s freedom or safety If the researcher can not be certain to meet the conditions set by the interviewee then he/she should not proceed with the interview Power imbalances can divide interviewers from their interviewees Social realities can work against honest and open disclosure by interviewees talking about their lives
  10. 10. Ethical dilemmas While the recent outcome of the Belfast Project has been difficult - to put it mildly - it need not suggest that oral history and social science interviewing is fraught with ethical and/or legal difficulties that cannot be overcome Being an academic researcher does not put you beyond the possibility of conducting respectful and informative interviews with people from all sorts of backgrounds
  11. 11. Advantages of interviewing Allows the practitioner to get past the inadequacies of some of the conventional historical sources, particularly in investigating the lives of so-called ‘ordinary’ people Good oral history interviewers “work with narrators to create a record worthy of preservation that is of value not only to scholars but also to society’s collective understanding of the past” [Linda Shopes] “Sure I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say” Tea and cake revelations Consent
  12. 12. Born digital data and ethical standards If we are creating an archive of interviews as a digital dataset does the absence of such input undermine the value of the research? If I anonymise what I was told and include it is that a breach of the trust shown by the interviewee? How valid is my interpretation of what was said since I cannot check the record to be sure I am making an accurate representation of the interviewee’s viewpoint, particularly if my interpretation is based on post factum notes?
  13. 13. Born digital data and ethical standards How do we ensure that the researcher behaves honestly and what kind of penalties should be imposed and by whom if there are no clear guidelines or legal constraints on how the interviews are conducted? Is it desirable to have a one size fits all approach?
  14. 14. Public dissemination of data + consent Verbatim transcripts Print dissemination Websites Hundred or thousands v. millions? Digitisation of pre-Internet interviews and consent Audience could be very frightening to a person who is trusting an individual interviewer but would be very uncomfortable with the considerably larger one made possible by the Web
  15. 15. Informed consent Interviewees pre-deceasing digitisation Ownership of the interview The issue of authority in the research relationship and how it is shared in oral history practice is a very important one and relates to the question of how we disseminate the data that we obtain from interviews No easy answer Best practice in oral history involves the researcher doing as much as possible to be certain that the interviewee is fully informed about how and where the interview will be made public
  16. 16. Confidentiality Guarantees of anonymity may be appropriate but generally would be considered on a case by case basis The key consideration of a case-by-case analysis is whether confidentiality is essential to the achievement of the research objectives Can confidentiality actually be delivered if the law can be used to force the release of data that was not intended for public disclosure within a certain time frame?
  17. 17. Extension of protective obligations Not just for interviewee – anyone mentioned in interview Dolours Price and press interviews – strengthened UK government’s case in US courts – Gerry Adams and Jean McConville Whether or not this material was defamatory is not the Dolours Price point at issue here although it is a salutary lesson in the dangers of using interview data out of context. Brendan Hughes wanted to tell his story but he is no longer around to be questioned about the accuracy of his recollections There is a strong argument for securing all legacy interviews for a sufficient length of time to guard against their being used in an unbalanced way to suit particular agendas
  18. 18. Lessons from Boston College? Does not mean we should not engage in interviews that are potentially controversial or even dangerous We need protective mechanisms to ensure that the data from such research cannot be used in ways that were unintended by the researchers or the participants Code of Practice for the DRI
  19. 19. Academics are not police and ifthey are enlisted in the service ofpolicing activity they will soon losethe cooperation of intervieweeswhose personal stories may havemuch value for public learning.