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RETHINKING RESEARCH ETHICS FOR MEDIATED SETTINGS

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An important feature of e-research is the increased mediation of research practices, which changes not only the objects and tools of research, but also the relation between researcher and object, between researchers, and between researchers and their constituencies and stakeholders. This article focuses on the ethical aspects of e-research by analysing the implications of these changing relationships in the case of ethnography in mediated settings. It makes a specific contribution to the discussions about research ethics that are currently pursued and that tend to be catalysed by institutional review boards. The authors aim to link ethical discussions with the actual practices and conditions of qualitative social research. To do so, they review how researchers have used principles and ethical guides of traditional disciplines in ethnography, and show that several of concepts and categories on which these guidelines rely (personhood, privacy, harm, alienation, power) are otherwise enacted in mediated settings. The authors also analyze the ethical issues that have arisen in our own research. On the basis of these discussions, they specify two of the underlying dynamics of research in mediated settings, contiguity and traceability, in order to understand why traditional research ethics are challenged by these settings. The article specifies how mediated contexts can shape ethical issues; it provides a concise yet illustrative elaboration of a number of these issues; and proposes a vocabulary to further discuss this aspect of ethnographic work. Together, these elements amount to a contribution for the elaboration of new ethical research practices for social research in mediated settings.
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Keywords: IRB; accountability; e-research; ethics; privacy; research relationships

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: The Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences – VKS,Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cruquiusweg 311019 AT,Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: [email protected], Email: [email protected], URL: http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink_contents"> Centro de Ciencias Humans y Sociales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, c/Albasa┬┤nz, 26–28Madrid,28037, Spain< xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="">[email protected], Email: [email protected], URL: http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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