An outcome of a fine collaboration, fed by lots of discussions with Annamaria Carusi and with members of the Virtual Ethnography Collaboratory–thanks everyone!
Beaulieu, Anne and Adolfo Estalella. In Press, 2012. Rethinking Research Ethics for Mediated Settings. Information, Communication and Society. A bit more about the background for this paper can be found on this other blog.
Ethnographers and other researchers doing fieldwork in highly mediated contexts will be interested in this upcoming workshop:
Ethics of e-research: What are the issues? What can researchers do?
In the framework of the project ‘e-research ethics’, a workshop will be held in Amsterdam on 12 October 2010. In the course of the afternoon, participants will discuss and reflect on the issues around ethics of e-research and the role of researchers in addressing them. Debate around these issues was initiated in Oxford in July 2010 and is ongoing at http://eresearch-ethics.org/. For more information and registration, please contact Anne Beaulieu (email@example.com) before 7 October.
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. 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.
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.
Now that speakers and participants in the session are more or less back at home base (some also took part in AoIR in Vancouver), it is high time to thank them all for what turned out to be a real highpoint of the 4S conference.
It was an intense session in which speakers focused on the intersection of ‘networked’ aspects of their fieldwork and their conceptualisation of the social and cultural forms they are studying. Speakers addressed tensions between epistemically diverse representations of networks, positioning of the researcher (outside the network and then being taken up into it), mediation of the researcher’s presence, unexpected modulation and granularity of networks and combinations of data.
And though the room was crowded and time was short, questions from the floor led to further insightful exchanges. Bart’s contribution as discussant was especially appreciated for the way he formulated the need to expand on positions in an individualised way–rather than across the diversity of work. It was indeed very much in this spirit that TL and I had conceived of a set of papers in which the specificities of problems in relation to the study of/in networks would be central, rather than programmatic or methodological pronouncements.
Part of the discussion also further added to my sense that it is urgent to have a meeting on ethics of fieldwork in mediated settings. (On this topic, the paper by Estallela and Ardevol, discussed a couple of weeks ago in relation to the IRB and summer school, has now appeared.)
In the course of my own paper, I also fit in an aside on the use of tools and the notion of ‘black box’ and my discussions with Johannes von Engelhardt (for his version, see his report on his research internship) and the need to push these discussions. It is not so much a question of whether some tools are black boxes, but rather that working together can lead to a greater, more careful and precise awareness of the kinds of transparency we require of our methods. Through these collaborations, we come to better understand what it is that we do not want black-boxed, while acknowledging that some aspects of our research always will be…