Ethics and research practices in mediated ethnography
Going on with the topic of ethics that I have been working in the last two years, I presented a paper in collaboration with Anne Beaulieu in the 5th International Conference on e-Social Science. The title: ‘Rethinking Research Ethics for Mediated Settings’, based on the work and discussions that we maintained during my stay at the Virtual Knowledge Studio in 2008.
Abstract: ‘Rethinking Research Ethics for Mediated Settings’
An important feature of e-research is the increased mediation of research practices, which changes not only the objects and tools of research, but also the relation between researcher and object, between researchers, and between researchers and their constituencies and stakeholders. This article focuses on the ethical aspects of mediated ethnography by analyzing the implications of these changing relationships. It makes a specific contribution to the discussions about research ethics that are currently pursued and that tend to be catalyzed by IRBs. Our aim is to link ethical discussions with the actual practices and conditions of qualitative ethnographic work. To do so, we review how researchers have used principles and ethical guides of traditional disciplines in ethnography, and show that several of concepts and categories on which these guidelines rely (personhood, privacy, harm, alienation, power) are otherwise enacted in mediated settings. We also analyze ethical issues that have arisen in our own research. On the basis of these discussions, we specify two of the underlying dynamics of research in mediated settings, contiguity and traceability, in order to understand why traditional research ethics are challenged by these settings. The article therefore specifies how mediated contexts can shape ethical issues; it provide a concise yet illustrative elaboration of a number of these issues; and proposes a vocabulary to further discuss this aspect of ethnographic work. Together, these elements amount to a contribution for the elaboration of new ethical research practices for mediated settings.