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Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age

New Challenges, Cases, and Contexts

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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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Introduction (Michael Zimmer / Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda)

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Introduction

MICHAEL ZIMMER AND KATHARINA KINDER-KURLANDA



The 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. Increasingly, social media tools are used to aid traditional research: subjects might be recruited through Facebook or Twitter, surveys are administered and shared online, and data is often stored and processed on social and collaborative webbased platforms and repositories. Social media has also emerged as a preferred domain for research itself: ethnographies take place within massively online social environments, entire collections of Facebook profile pages are scraped for data analysis, and the content of public Twitter streams is routinely mined for academic studies. And we have now entered the era of big data, where researchers can access petabytes of transactional data, clickstreams and cookie logs, media files, and digital archives, as well as pervasive data from social networks, mobile phones, and sensors.

In short, academic research has begun to fully embrace what Maria Azua, a Vice President of Technology and Innovation at IBM, describes in her book, The Social Factor: Innovate, Ignite, and Win through Mass Collaboration and Social Networking, as “the social age,” the leveraging of the internet and pervasive connected devices to enhance communication, information exchange, collaboration, and social interactions (Azua, 2009, p. 1). As a result,...

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