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Blurring the Boundaries?
Ethical challenges in using social
media for social science research
Kandy Woodfield
Director of ...
Blurring the boundaries?
Social media have blurred the boundaries, leading to
a set of linked challenges for researchers:
...
New Social Media, New
Social Science?
Innovation
Collaboration
Inspiration
Fresh thinking
 Network of methodological inno...
Aims of the network
Innovation
Collaboration
Inspiration
Fresh thinking On & off line community of practice
 Forge links...
How it works?
 Range of platforms
 Twitter: @NSMNSS, #NSMNSS
 Blog: http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/
 You Tube:
www.youtu...
70% HE sector
30% other
60% in UK
40% worldwide
3,000+
Twitter community
20 disciplinary
fields
Over 18,000
minutes of
video watched
3 0nline seminars
2 conferences
7 knowledge exchange
seminars
17 twitter chats
140 bl...
 Ethical guidelines reviewed
 Social media users & researcher’s
views explored
 Crowd-sourced, book of blogs
What have we learnt about
social media for research?
 Social media used in most soc sci disciplines
 Lots of innovation ...
New social media, new social science and new ethical issues! Salmon, J. 2013
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1-gmLw9jo6fL...
Elizabeth A. Buchanan, Endowed Chair in Ethics, University of Wisconsin
Ethically unique?
Social media data is:
 Malleabl...
New social media, new social science and new ethical issues! Salmon, J. 2013
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1-gmLw9jo6fL...
Twitter chats
Qualitative research exploring:
 How people curate their digital
lives
 What they understand about how
their online info...
Using social media
Used for leisure, social and
professional reasons
Familiarity with the
platform
Peer activity
Device mo...
Views about research Can/do users
distinguish between
academics using their
data & government or
commercial orgs?
Privacy in SM research
Problematic for researchers &
participants
 Is the space seen as private by its users?
 Are they ...
Informed consent
 Terms & conditions of data use may require certain steps
 Morally required even if T&Cs state it’s pub...
Terms of service
Who owns the data created in a social networking site?
 Facebook claims the rights to any data collected...
What does this mean in
practice?
Twitter Best Practices for Media publication
 Show name, @username, unmodified Tweet tex...
Recruitment & Data Collection
Using data posted online
 Digital identities & risks for users
 Who has a right to privacy...
What does this mean in practice?
Collecting qualitative data from users on social
media:
 Pull rather than push recruitme...
Researcher identity &
wellbeing
Not mentioned by users but researchers
were concerned about…
 Their own digital identity ...
Analysis & presentation of data
Analysis
 Third Party Software – who controls the sample, the
feed, owns the data
 How m...
Researchers
 Is SM the right methodology for your research Q?
 Don’t make assumptions
 Review case studies and existing...
What have we learnt? III
‘Getting it right’ is also about
methodological quality:
 What is a robust sample from Twitter o...
Resolving ethical
dilemmas requires
“holistic” approach
engaging views of many
disciplines
Cultural competencies &
flexibi...
Some final observations…
 Multi-disciplinary, multi-method approaches to research
ethics are needed, while respecting the...
Thank you!
If you want further information or would like to
contact the network:
nsmnss@natcen.ac.uk
http://nsmnss.blogspo...
Blurring the Boundaries? Ethical challenges in using social media for social science research
Blurring the Boundaries? Ethical challenges in using social media for social science research
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Blurring the Boundaries? Ethical challenges in using social media for social science research

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Presentation UWE Research Ethics Symposium May 24th 2015

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Blurring the Boundaries? Ethical challenges in using social media for social science research

  1. 1. Blurring the Boundaries? Ethical challenges in using social media for social science research Kandy Woodfield Director of Learning
  2. 2. Blurring the boundaries? Social media have blurred the boundaries, leading to a set of linked challenges for researchers:  Methodological (volume, scale, nature of data)  Collaborative (trans/cross disciplinary teams)  Ethical & legal (privacy, ownership, control, power relations)  Capability (requires new skills, tools, frameworks, infrastructure)  Contextual (understanding ‘the social world’)  Synthesis (how do new methods supplant, enhance, augment?)
  3. 3. New Social Media, New Social Science? Innovation Collaboration Inspiration Fresh thinking  Network of methodological innovation  Funded by ESRC (via NCRM) initially  Now in its third year, self-funded, peer led, network leads @  Affiliate organisations from academia, govt and voluntary sector
  4. 4. Aims of the network Innovation Collaboration Inspiration Fresh thinking On & off line community of practice  Forge links across sectors & disciplines  Catalyse debate  Address challenges social media present for social science research  Share approaches, tools & experiences of using social media  Identify good practice  Co-created content & guidance to be shared with the wider community
  5. 5. How it works?  Range of platforms  Twitter: @NSMNSS, #NSMNSS  Blog: http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/  You Tube: www.youtube.com/user/NSMNSS  Conferences  Knowledge exchange events  Methodological projects  Publishing Innovation Collaboration Inspiration Fresh thinking
  6. 6. 70% HE sector 30% other 60% in UK 40% worldwide 3,000+ Twitter community 20 disciplinary fields
  7. 7. Over 18,000 minutes of video watched 3 0nline seminars 2 conferences 7 knowledge exchange seminars 17 twitter chats 140 blog posts So far… 3,900+ video views on You Tube 160, 207blog page views
  8. 8.  Ethical guidelines reviewed  Social media users & researcher’s views explored  Crowd-sourced, book of blogs
  9. 9. What have we learnt about social media for research?  Social media used in most soc sci disciplines  Lots of innovation but disciplinary silos & divides do still exist and are counter-productive to moving social media methodology(ies) forward  No single methodology for social media research – many approaches, many tools, different epistemological stances  Social media is a fast moving world, platforms, data and users change = computational, ethical and capability challenges
  10. 10. New social media, new social science and new ethical issues! Salmon, J. 2013 https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1-gmLw9jo6fLTQ5X0oyeE1aRjQ/edi What have we learnt? II Persisting uncertainty about whether we are ‘getting it right’  Ethical dilemmas - lack of consistent, relevant guidance, widely varying practices: ‘analogue ethics in a digital age’  What are the big issues?  Avoiding the emperor’s new clothes  Understanding differences between aggregated ‘big data’ and qualitative socme data  Lack of research with users of social media  Lack of engagement with commercial platforms
  11. 11. Elizabeth A. Buchanan, Endowed Chair in Ethics, University of Wisconsin Ethically unique? Social media data is:  Malleable & ‘mashable’ – created by many, invented and reinvented  Track-able  Mineable  Greasy - travels across platforms & borders
  12. 12. New social media, new social science and new ethical issues! Salmon, J. 2013 https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1-gmLw9jo6fLTQ5X0oyeE1aRjQ/edi Key ethical issues? Privacy & anonymity of participants Sampling & recruitment Informed consent Researcher identity, rapport & relationships User-generated content (text & images) as data Date ownership & data security
  13. 13. Twitter chats
  14. 14. Qualitative research exploring:  How people curate their digital lives  What they understand about how their online information is used  What they think about their information and posts being used by researchers and in online social media research project? Exploring social media users views Beninger, K. et al (2014) http://www.natcen.ac.uk/media/282288/p0639-research-using-social-media-report-final-190214.pdf
  15. 15. Using social media Used for leisure, social and professional reasons Familiarity with the platform Peer activity Device mobility Accessibility Frequency of use
  16. 16. Views about research Can/do users distinguish between academics using their data & government or commercial orgs?
  17. 17. Privacy in SM research Problematic for researchers & participants  Is the space seen as private by its users?  Are they aware they are being observed?  What is the researcher’s role?  Is everything what it seems?  Are users who they claim to be? Does it matter?  How do researchers ensure participants are anonymous?  IP addresses are (usually) traceable  Tweets may contain identifiers …  Twitter metadata contains geotags etc.
  18. 18. Informed consent  Terms & conditions of data use may require certain steps  Morally required even if T&Cs state it’s public/reusable?  What about bots/age/capacity? Difficult to verify w/out informed consent  Promotes trust  Verify user views haven’t changed, been deleted, the ‘right to be forgotten’  To publish photos or imagery
  19. 19. Terms of service Who owns the data created in a social networking site?  Facebook claims the rights to any data collected from applications (including surveys) created within it: Jaquith (2009): “Facebook’s definition of data ownership does not include the right to export that data. It’s “mine,” so long as I leave it under Facebook’s control”  Twitter upholds the tweeters IP, insisting you use their Twitter handle and verbatim when quoting in publications
  20. 20. What does this mean in practice? Twitter Best Practices for Media publication  Show name, @username, unmodified Tweet text and the Twitter bird nearby, as well as a timestamp  If displaying Tweets, make sure they are real, from legitimate accounts and that you have permission from the author when necessary Real tension with research ethics & anonymity 20
  21. 21. Recruitment & Data Collection Using data posted online  Digital identities & risks for users  Who has a right to privacy online?  Exclusion of particular groups – whose voice, whose stories?  Even data pools are made up of human individuals – with geo tags and strong views, distinctive characteristics revivification of identity can be possible Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s ethical
  22. 22. What does this mean in practice? Collecting qualitative data from users on social media:  Pull rather than push recruitment – attract to you, caveat - calls for participation can get modified, amended  Approach gatekeepers of communities  Be transparent and open about your researcher role (if doing ethnography, observation)  Think about informed consent process –conversations online draw in other users inadvertently what about their consent Informed consent needs to be a process, not a one off 23
  23. 23. Researcher identity & wellbeing Not mentioned by users but researchers were concerned about…  Their own digital identity & footprint  Impact on research outcomes  Managing communication w. participants – safety and disclosure  Credibility and transparency
  24. 24. Analysis & presentation of data Analysis  Third Party Software – who controls the sample, the feed, owns the data  How much is too much? Perils of network analysis…  Validity and representativeness Presentation  Traceability of participant data - anonymity  short & long term implications for participants  Terms of usage – Twitter and Facebook controls on how to display data and posts  Journals differ in their approach to use of verbatim posts
  25. 25. Researchers  Is SM the right methodology for your research Q?  Don’t make assumptions  Review case studies and existing research Recruitment: • Transparency in materials • Learn about privacy terms of the platform used Collecting/generating data: • Considering implications of legally permitted vs. intellectual property • Acknowledge limits of accessing different user types, population groups Reporting results: • Test traceability of data, and paraphrase or remove handle • Reasonably seek consent for use of verbatim/sensitive content
  26. 26. What have we learnt? III ‘Getting it right’ is also about methodological quality:  What is a robust sample from Twitter or Facebook?  Need to develop methodological courage and confidence to defend the method  Need new quality frameworks? Scepticism and cynicism persist  Digital literacy & methodological skills gaps  Lack of experience and understanding in institutions, ethics boards and funders
  27. 27. Resolving ethical dilemmas requires “holistic” approach engaging views of many disciplines Cultural competencies & flexibility needed when dealing with multicultural participants Need for ‘standardization’ of REC approaches? Social media are plural, no single methods – ethics decisions must be context and method specific Encouragement for researchers to publish methods/ ethical case studies, failures & successes
  28. 28. Some final observations…  Multi-disciplinary, multi-method approaches to research ethics are needed, while respecting the influence of disciplinary codes  Ongoing development & dialogue is needed approaches will evolve with changes in tech & usage – static codes won’t work  Must engage those who teach, review & supervise  Continue to support discussion of ethical issues / case studies  Need to start a dialogue about ethics with the software houses We’re not there yet
  29. 29. Thank you! If you want further information or would like to contact the network: nsmnss@natcen.ac.uk http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/ @nsmnss on Twitter Kandy can be contacted via LinkedIn or @jess1ecat

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