[Air-l] Great Ethical disasters in Internet Research?

Ildiko Kaposi pphkai01 at phd.ceu.hu
Fri Jul 12 03:48:19 PDT 2002


To Chris's concern about the resentment chat room and newsgroup participants may feel about intrusive researchers:

It seems to me that the issue is whether such online forms of expression are considered public or private. (I remember seeing something along these lines in the AoIR archives but I'm not sure what it was exactly - sorry if I repeat other people's ideas.)
In my own research on a Hungarian online discussion forum, the majority of the participants I talk to understand the messages they send to be public. They think many of the same rules apply to those messages as to any other publicly accessible media text. And newspapers have published collections of quotes from the site, not even changing the nicks of participants.
(I still offer everyone total anonymity, trying to make sure no quotes can be traced back to individuals unless that's their expressed wish.)
Bottom line is: there may be cultural differences too in how the public/private nature of online communication we research is determined, and that can affect the research method. 
Which is not to say there's no need to try to figure out the universal ethics of the area.

Ildiko Kaposi

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