[Air-l] Science News Online: The Social Net

Jenny Stromer-Galley jstromer at asc.upenn.edu
Wed Jun 5 10:14:23 PDT 2002

Thanks for sending this link. It's an interesting summation of the research.
What struck me was the final paragraphs, in particular, the method employed
by Jack Glaser:

"Some researchers hope to use the Internet to explore the largely hidden
world of such groups. For instance, psychologist Jack Glaser of the
University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues posed as curious,
naive visitors to ask 38 participants in several white supremacist chat
rooms about their ideas on biracial marriage and other racial issues."

"Glaser considers this technique ethical because participants were contacted
in a public forum, weren't coerced, addressed common topics of conversation
in their chat rooms, and were not personally identified by the researchers.
Surreptitious interviewing might also yield new insights into such denizens
of the Internet as child pornographers and illegal weapons traders, Glaser

"However, deceiving people on the Internet in the name of science "is
ethically on the edge," remarks New York University psychologist John A.
Bargh. No ethical guidelines for conducting online research currently exist,
he notes."

I have thought about engaging in this kind of questioning on online
discussion spaces, but have stopped myself because there is no way I could
publish what I found. My univeristy, the University of Pennsylvania,
requires a review of *all* research that involves humans, even the kind
Glaser engages in. I am 90% sure that my review board would not allow such
research to be done. At the same time, I think I agree with Glaser that the
research is ethical because it's a public forum, he's not asking them about
things tangential to their organization, and he is not identifying them in
his research findings.

I know AoIR has worked on ethics guidelines. What do you think about
Glaser's practices? And why doesn't John Bargh know about AoIR's ethics
guidelines :-) . . . .

~Jenny Stromer-Galley

> interesting light overview of net social research . . .
> The Social Net: Scientists hope to download some insight into online
> interactions
> Bruce Bower
> Science News Online, Week of May 4, 2002; Vol. 161, No. 18
> http://www.sciencenews.org/20020504/bob9.asp
> ____________________________
> Joseph Cothrel
> Vice President of Research
> Participate Systems, Inc.
> Chicago, IL USA
> jcothrel at participate.com

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