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Ethics in digital research

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  • Katrin Tiidenberg
This chapter joins the voices that consider research ethics to be a matter of situated, responsible judgment, rather than a matter of universal principles and rigid guidelines. When collecting data about or in digitally saturated contexts, we need to consciously choose between what is available, findable and collectable, and what should be found, collected and used for research. Thus, this chapter will not offer a set of rules; rather, it advocates for systematic (self) reflexivity in ethical qualitative inquiry.
In the following I outline some of the persistent ethical issues that scholars involved in internet research are faced with. Classical ethical concepts like informed consent, confidentiality, anonymity, privacy, publicity and harm are difficult to operationalize in a socio-technical context that is persistent, replicable, scalable, and searchable. Examples from my own work and that of colleagues are offered to illustrate how technical affordances, people’s perceptions and researchers’ needs may clash as previously ephemeral aspects of human interaction seem readily available as “data”. Newer tensions arising from the growing pressure to share data in qualitative research databanks, as well as questions about using hacked or tainted data are also explored.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe SAGE handbook of qualitative data collection
EditorsUwe Flick
Place of publicationLondon
PublisherSAGE Publications
Publication year2017
Pages466-481
ISBN (print) 9781473952133
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • research ethics, Ethics, digital research, digital research ethics, internet research, social media research, situational ethics, ethics of care

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