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The Disturbed Subject

Epistemological and Ethical Implications of Reactivity in Videotape Research

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Jeffrey Roth

This monograph examines the question whether subjects' altered behavior in response to the presence of video recording equipment constitutes a threat to the accuracy and fairness of observational research. The author criticizes methodological arguments that favor restricting subjects' awareness of and involvement in the videotaping process on the grounds that inspection of the visual record would contaminate «naturally occurring» behavior. Roth argues that this pursuit of invisibility compromises the ethical principles undergirding the subject/researcher relationship - specifically, the doctrine of mutually informed consent. In the final chapter he offers an alternative model of videotape-centered research wherein subjects' reactivity to observation is shown to enlarge the meaning and purpose of social inquiry.