I know that i should love human subjects boards, but i have to admit that they are my least favorite aspect of doing research. My biggest complaint is that they do not understand the dynamics of doing research online. Thus, i’ve spent far too much time discussing what it means to be an ethical researcher of online material. One issue that always emerges concerns citations. As a researcher, you are required to respect the confidentiality of your subjects always. Yet, when you are quoting online material, you can easily throw the quote into Google and find the original source, revealing the person behind the quote (or at least their handle).
While this topic is frequently discussed in conversations about ethical research, it is clearly not a lesson that everyone has learned. In The New Nanny Diaries Are Online, the author thinks that she is being discrete, referencing her nanny anonymously. By throwing the quotes into Google, you can find the nanny’s blog. This is particularly interesting because it gives the nanny a chance to respond in her own words.
This is an interesting dynamic and one that i’m curious about in the context of research. What would it mean if subjects of research could respond to the analysis of their practices? Historically, anthropologists did not make their analyses available to subjects because it was assumed that the subjects could not understand the analysis. Personally, i’ve always been of the mindset that publications should be explicitly made available to all subjects. Yet, i have taken the elitist position that i know more and while i should listen to disagreements, i should still publish what i wrote if i still believe it after the disagreements. What would it mean to bring the subject more actively into the conversation, letting them out themselves as they see fit? What if the subjects want to be referenced explicitly so that they _can_ refute my claims?
(Based on Alex Halavais)