Category Archives: conference

TL Taylor at VKS

One of the final activities of the virtual ethnography collaboratory of the Virtual Knowledge Studio was the visit of TL Taylor. During her time in Amsterdam, TL focused on a book project, on ethnographic methodology for the study of virtual worlds, in which she is involved with other colleagues. She presented on part of this project in our research meeting, in a talk entitled ‘Ethnography as Play’.

Another part of the visit consisted in the preparation of a session on Fieldwork as Method and Process for Artful Encounters: on ethnography, art and conservation. TL and I had a great time interviewing each other, and we were very pleased at how generously the audience reacted when we turned the interview questions on them!

Ethics of e-research at NCeSS

At a workshop on e-research organised by Nick Kankoswki in the framework of NCeSS 2009, we are presenting on the topic on ethics of e-research.ethicsworkshop.avatars This work is based on the experiences of the VKS in the past 3 years and on two workshops on ethics organised by the VKS in June 2008 and June 2009 (with KNAW). We have given our contribution a somewhat unusual form, putting forth our insights as a set of ‘frequently asked questions’. These FAQs can be found here. Reactions to these are very welcome, whether on the blog, face to face or via email.

Ethics of (e)research

one-day course for PhD students, post-doctoral and other researchers, organized by the Virtual Knowledge Studio in collaboration with the KNAW, and inspired by the June Plenary.

Date and location: Monday 15 June 2009, at the KNAW, Trippenhuis, Amsterdam.

In this one-day event, participants will have the opportunity to examine their own research practices from an ethical perspective and to learn about current approaches to research ethics.

The workshop will enable researchers to identify and analyze ethical issues that arise in the course of their own research, whether relating to empirical material and sources, to analysis or to publication and dissemination. They will also become familiar with a range of mechanisms that support ethical research practices (codes of conduct, consent forms, ethical audits, etc.). The workshop will contribute to the development of skills to deal with ethical dilemmas and increase researchers’ confidence in undertaking research in novel settings or using new tools.

Such a workshop is especially timely because the ethical dimensions of research are receiving more attention from national and transnational funding agencies and professional associations for a number of reasons, including:

  • greater accountability of researchers
  • pressure from funders to increase scale and disciplinary breadth of research teams;
  • Ethical’ turn in social science and humanities, following the linguistic and cultural turns;
  • Rise of ethical approval committees, moving beyond the medical sciences into other disciplines;
  • Increased presence of new media in research and communication;
  • Increased availability of data arising from mundane social practices; Creation of new research infrastructures and tools

New technologies not only raise new ethical questions; they also bring into relief some very old ones regarding, for example, respect for the confidentiality of research participants. Similarly, greater internationalisation and interdisciplinarity also raise both new and old issues, as different national and disciplinary cultures have different traditions of both defining and dealing with research ethics. For example, universities in the US and Canada have a strong tradition of ethical review, with all research projects involving human subjects – regardless of discipline – being required to obtain institutional approval prior to research commencing.

In European countries, such procedures often only apply to medical and psychological research. The standards of medical research, about informed consent and doing no harm, are not always relevant in social sciences and humanities. Humanities and social sciences differ in their view of people not only from medical sciences but also from each other. For example, for humanities scholars, people producing (online) texts should best be regarded as authors, with the result that they should simply be cited as any other author. For a social scientist, the very same people may be regarded as ‘respondents’ and then issues of consent and confidentiality become more salient.

In the UK, recipients of research council funding are normally expected to deposit all data in a public archive; in the US and Canada, similar data would have to be destroyed after five years. The imposition of ethical review procedures may also have implications for what styles of research are favoured. Most formal review procedures require the production of research instruments as part of the process, instruments which may then need further approval if they are changed. This may work for research using positivistic research designs, but would be very cumbersome for more interpretative research designs which rely on the identification and pursuit of emergent phenomena. Clearly, as research becomes ever more international and interdisciplinary, all of these issues will become urgent. This one-day workshop will orient researchers to these discussions as well as develop their ability to deal with dilemmas faced in research.

Provisional timetable

10-10.30

Arrival & coffee

10.30-11.30

Introductions & ethics quiz

11.40-12.30

Brief lecture outlining history & practice of research ethics in the Netherlands

12.30-13.30

Lunch

13.30-15.00

Discussion of research dilemmas

15-15.30

Tea

15.30-17

Discussion of sample US/Canadian-style ethical clearance form

17-17.30

Concluding remarks

17.30-18.30

Borrel followed by dinner

Work to be done in advance by participants:

Complete ethical clearance form and write one page about past or current dilemma.

Time and location: 10-18.30 (followed by dinner), Monday 15 June 2009, at the Trippenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 29, Amsterdam. More travel information at http://www.knaw.nl/contact/contact_eng.html

Registration: Please contact Anja de Haas (anja.dehaas@vks.knaw.nl) to register. Deadline for registration is 8 May 2009.

Cost: €50, includes participation, course materials, lunch and breaks; or €75, also including dinner

Number of participants: maximum 16, to ensure a discussion-oriented format

Contact : Prof. S. Wyatt (sally.wyatt@vks.knaw.nl) or Dr. A. Beaulieu (anne.beaulieu@vks.knaw.nl)

Countdown to ‘In the Game’!

In two weeks, we will be meeting in Copenhagen to discuss ethnographic relationships and knowledge–and to exchange about a whole slew of articles and chapters ‘in progress’. The workshop is closed, but we will have two active ‘reporters’ walking around and mediating the proceedings, so some of the day’s insights will also be made public in various forms. Here is a link to the poster: inthegameposterbig.

Bikes, originally uploaded by Alfred Nerstu.

VKS Plenary meeting: Ethics in E-research

In the course of the day, 24 scholars from all three location of the Virtual Knowledge Studio discussed the issue of ethics in their research. The day ended with a lecture from Maria Bakardjieva.

Among other themes, the nature of labour in doing e-research was raised, as were particular challenges in establishing and maintaining an identity as researcher when doing research in mediated settings. Who counts as a researcher, and for whom should research count were also recurring topics.

One goal for the day was to share experiences of ethical practices in our work, and to reflect on the various resources we draw on when dealing with ethical concerns.

Dilemmas were welcomed…

Friction between ways of working, between expectations of research partners (both other researchers or ‘subjects’ – who may sometimes more appropriately be considered as authors), and between traditions or habits and new settings for our work, seemed to be an emerging theme. While not particularly comfortable, friction indicates important moments and can produc new insights.

Participants to the plenary were happy to share stories and insights from such frictions. We want to return to these issues in the autumn as this is an emerging topic for discussion within the Netherlands.

All comments very welcome.

Call for Participants

AoIR preconference workshop

The next international activity of the Virtual Ethnography Collaboratory will be a pre-conference workshop at Internet Research 9.0: Rethinking Communities, Rethinking Place, to be held on 15 October 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The workshop is entitled In The Game: Ethnographic Relationships, Mediation and Knowledge. The aim of the workshop is to examine a core issue in ethnographic work, the ethnographic relationship, in terms of the specific challenges encountered by researchers who work mainly in and on mediated settings.

The workshop is organised by Anne Beaulieu (Virtual  Knowledge Studio, The Netherlands) Marinka Copier (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) and T.L. Taylor (IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark), in collaboration with AoIR (Association of Internet Researchers).

More information about the scope of the event and various deadlines can be found on the VKS website.

ethnography of digital objects

The newest face at the VKS is that of Dina Friis, a Masters student in Anthropology from the University of Aarhus*, where she is working with Renaissance man Andreas Roepstroff. In our weekly research meeting, Dina told about her fieldwork on the electronic patient record and the framework for her project. This led to a discussion of (among other issues) actor network theory and politics–namely, about whether taking software and infrastructure seriously as political subjects is itself a (sufficient) political move, and about the possibility of conjoining ANT with other types of (interventionist) politics.

And as usual, lots of suggestions were made, and other vks’ers pointed Dina to potentially interesting resources–though Dina has lost no time in connecting to relevant researchers in the network! She will be working on these issues in the coming months (her stay is planned to last until May), which will lead to a Master’s thesis.

*looking around the site of the dept, I came across what looks like a fantastic event on holism in ethnography, to be held this summer in Aarhus.