The Ethics Issue

Given my plan of looking at online communities of marginalized people in a very personal setting (personal blogs), I certainly would expect to need an Ethics Board Review of my project. I am unsure at this point of the details as to what degree of expected privacy there is on Tumblr, but enough Tumblr users make a concerted effort to keep their blogs unidentifiable by people they know offline that, even if I am told that is not an issue (something I find unlikely), I would want to tread carefully with my data.

Needless to say, the topics that would come up as questions in interviews could potentially be extremely sensitive, or, at the very least, involve some very personal reflection. The consent issues involved would be tricky as well. Part of the plan is to go through portions of each subject’s personal blog, and, again, despite the public visibility of these blogs, I would want to make absolutely certain I don’t overstep any boundaries. The age issue is also a concern. Tumblr requires its users to be over the age of thirteen, but for any potential subjects under the age of eighteen, consent would certainly be an issue.

In that regard I found it interesting that the lecturer noted that many people in the social sciences seem to view questions of ethics as some sort of unnecessarily picky barrier to the work they want to do. My own feelings are to take ethics incredibly seriously, especially concerning matters of privacy and potentially triggering topics. Needless to say, I found the lecture very interesting and am actually looking forward to working out the ethics kinks of my research when the time comes.

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