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Talk on ethics of social media research for University of the Arts London and Association for Research Ethics

last modified Nov 19, 2014 12:04 PM

The Association for Research Ethics and the University of the Arts London collaborated on a pilot workshop on integrity and ethics in arts research inspired by the Concordat to Support Research Integrity.  Hearing about research ethics from the disciplinary perspective of the arts was fascinating; I talked about the ethics of verification and representation in social media research.

A key tenet of the concordat is 'care and respect for all participants in and subjects of research, including humans, animals, the environment and cultural objects.'  One of the points I wished to make was that we must not only consider the ethics around those participating in and subject of our research, but also the ethics around whom we exclude from our research.  Whose voices are not being heard, why, and with what consequences?  These are questions we must ask when we think about how we verify information and choose sources in research.

Furthermore, the distinction made in the concordat between humans and cultural objects is an interesting one for social media research.  According to the Association of Internet Researchers' Ethics Guide, the involvement of humans is often the threshold for ethical review.  It can sometimes be difficult, however, to see or anticipate the human consequences of working with social media information as texts or cultural objects - yet how this information is interpreted and used can have repercussions for its authors, disseminators, subjects, and others.  The Association of Internet Researchers therefore recommends circumnavigating the human/object dichotomy by approaching research ethics through a lens of minimising harm.

About this website

This is the website for Ella McPherson's work related to her 2014-17 ESRC-funded research project, Social Media, Human Rights NGOs, and the Potential for Governmental Accountability.