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Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age

New Challenges, Cases, and Contexts


Edited By Michael Zimmer and Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda

The continuous evolution of internet and related social media technologies and platforms have opened up vast new means for communication, socialization, expression, and collaboration. They also have provided new resources for researchers seeking to explore, observe, and measure human opinions, activities, and interactions. However, those using the internet and social media for research – and those tasked with facilitating and monitoring ethical research such as ethical review boards – are confronted with a continuously expanding set of ethical dilemmas. Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age: New Challenges, Cases, and Contexts directly engages with these discussions and debates, and stimulates new ways to think about – and work towards resolving – the novel ethical dilemmas we face as internet and social media-based research continues to evolve. The chapters in this book – from an esteemed collection of global scholars and researchers – offer extensive reflection about current internet research ethics and suggest some important reframings of well-known concepts such as justice, privacy, consent, and research validity, as well as providing concrete case studies and emerging research contexts to learn from.

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Chapter Fourteen: The Social Age of “It’s not a Private Problem”: Case Study of Ethical and Privacy Concerns in a Digital Ethnography of South Asian Blogs against Intimate Partner Violence (Ishani Mukherjee)


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The Social Age OF “It’s NOT A Private Problem”

Case Study of Ethical and Privacy Concerns in a Digital Ethnography of South Asian Blogs against Intimate Partner Violence



Narrative media provide fertile ground for researchers to conduct digital ethnographies of rich (and sometimes sensitive and protected) textual data within interactive social spaces that may be strictly moderated, informally filtered or largely public. In a “social age” (Azua, 2009) where cultural convergence happens alongside technological convergence within digital communication spaces (Jenkins, 2006), the blogosphere emerges as one such informal network of information and interactions. Blogs operate within this “space of flows,” as a form of knowledge (Jenkins, 2006). Digital “produsers” (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006) can control/negotiate media content concurrently, additionally obscuring boundaries between users and producers in a post-democratic, shared social context where ethical boundaries and privacy concerns are constantly being challenged and reimagined.

Within the last decade, blogs have become critical and cultural sites of struggle where technologies of body, mind, society, sexuality, politics, race, and oppression come together in uneasy intersections to complicate the embodied-disembodied schism. While this problematic makes for important social scientific investigation, what it also creates are pedagogical interstices that need to be filled and ethical questions that need to be answered. This chapter will briefly explore certain ethical issues that arose in a study, which had been conducted in the past (Mukherjee, 2013)...

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