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Feminist research in online spaces

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The Internet is growing in popularity as a research site and is often framed as the next frontier in human subjects research. The opportunities the Internet provides for political organizing, making personal experiences more public, and creating spaces for a variety of voices makes it particularly relevant to feminist geographers and researchers such as ourselves. However, many qualitative researchers approach online research as though the Internet simply archives an abundance of data that is ‘there for the taking.’ Being trained in feminist research methods, we took issue with this approach, yet also encountered challenges when trying to apply feminist practices and ethical perspectives to online research environments. We explore these challenges through a collaborative reflection on our own independent online research experiences. Three themes emerge: (1) interpreting politics and visibility in online spaces, (2) researcher positionality across virtual and material study sites, and (3) subjectivity and power in online research ethics. Reflecting on these themes, we argue that the insights of feminist ethics and a feminist geographical lens are crucial for bringing much-needed reflexivity and reciprocity into online research. Simultaneously, online research opens up exciting new ways of conceptualizing central ideas within feminist research ethics, including politicization, positionality, and power.
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Keywords: Internet; blog; ethics; methodology; metodología; online; ética

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA, USA 2: Department of Geography, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada 3: Department of Geography & Environment, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada

Publication date: April 21, 2015

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