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Linguistic and Critical Analysis of Computer-Mediated Communication: Some Ethical and Scholarly Considerations

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This essay compares two proposals (Cavazos, 1994; King, this issue) relating to whether and how CMC researchers should cite electronic messages used as data. Although the proposals prescribe opposite solutions, both contain similar assumptions about the nature of CMC (e.g., that it is homogeneous; that members of a "virtual community" have shared agendas) and about the nature of research (e.g., that it is content focused; that it is ideally consensual; that it should not affect the researched in any way). These assumptions are argued to reflect discipline-specific biases that exclude other legitimate forms of CMC research. Two examples are discussed of research paradigms that are excluded by the guidelines: linguistic analysis in the positivist tradition, and critical analysis in the social realist tradition. The critical paradigm in particular raises a number of additional ethical considerations not addressed by the proposed guidelines. It is suggested that existing ethical guidelines within each discipline largely suffice to guide on-line research, with the addition of a CMC-specific recommendation clarifying the rights and obligations of researcher and researched in restricted-access as compared with open-access on-line groups.
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Keywords: COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION CMC; ETHICS; GUIDELINES; LINGUISTICS; PSEUDONYMS; SCHOLARSHIP; SOCIAL CRITICISM

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 1996

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