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Matthew Williams & Bruce Mason Cardiff University

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1 Online Ethnographic Research and Dissemination: Method, Ethics and Practice
Matthew Williams & Bruce Mason Cardiff University Presented at Research Methods Programme Online resources workshop 16/12/2004

2 The Scope Assessing the methods, pratice and ethical considerations of online ethnographic research. Assessing how to build ethical practice into all phases of an ethnographic project for online dissemination.

3 Online Participant Observation Online Focus Groups
virtual ethnography: the ethical challenges of researching online environments Online Participant Observation Online Focus Groups

4 informed consent & anonymity
Turbulent & shifting online populations Public vs. private online discourse Online disinhibition online public discourse may be considered private Asynchronous communication possibility of virtual informed consent Difficulty achieving online anonymity

5 established ethical guidelines
ISP acceptable use policies CPSR, EFF, AoIR Online community codes of conduct Implications of certain laws Data Protection Act 1998

6 reciprocity in online research
Ease of transmitting online information Participant can review and reflect on digital data Further ethical dilemmas of representing data online

7 Insights from “Ethnography in the Digital Age”
Multimedia fieldwork in the real world. Hypermedia presentation online. And an aggrevating factor…

8 Every digital ethnographer’s worst nightmar.

9 Ethics and consent in the field
Looking to achieve active, informed consent Opt in vs. opt out consent Active consent allows subjects to withdraw consent later Consent for reuse and repurposing

10 Simple consent form used during visitor interviews.
Used with subjects who will have personal contact with researchers. Requires an informational leaflet. No explicit space for restrictions.

11 Consent form to be used alongside an informational flyer with restrictions added. Used during Photo essay and vox pop project.

12 Detailed Consent form used during photography at research site used during a “photo essay” task.
Minimal contact with researchers except during the consent process. Explicit, active consent with restriction boxes.

13 Warning poster Used alongside an informational flyer.
To warn people that they may be recorded as part of a research project. Used when there is no intent to identify potential subjects caught on camera.

14 Working to achieve consent

15 Still working to achieve consent

16 Information poster for staff at research site

17 Online Dissemination The Ethnographic Hypermedia Environment (EHE) online. Not just online dataset Not just online scholarship Data Protection act looms large. Do you know who your Data Protection Officer is? Procedures for handling indvidual media types are often relatively well known but combining media (multi/hypermedia) facilitates unexpected identification. GOOGLE! It can identify people It can misidentify people

18 Do you know who’s looking?
Internation online (Web/Grid) dissemination. E.g. Data Protection act forbids sharing data held under the act outside of EU. (e.g. USA). Password protection (personal or via a facility such as Athens) Use copyright to prevent re-use and re-purposing? Surely the whole point is to enable reuse.

19 Oh Brave New World Industrialisation of teaching Don’t Panic?
If teaching is becoming an industry what impact will this have on the research process? As an example, full economic costing is being applied to research funding. What impact might that have on our relationship with research participants? Don’t Panic? Are we over-concerned about the ethical issues?

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