[Air-l] internet research and confidentiality

Nathaniel Poor natpoor at umich.edu
Tue Dec 21 11:26:18 PST 2004

Unless I missed it no one has directly presented bloggers as 
journalists -- we don't ask journalists for their approval and get IRB 
forms when we do a content analysis on TV shows, news programs, or 
written items such as articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals.

So, perhaps blogs aren't the new new media!

(Two things: yes, people have stated that blogs are public, but I mean 
something different, and two, I'm thinking outloud, I'm not saying one 
should or should not get IRB approval -- this is a sort of 
meta-analysis of the ideas as I saw them -- blogs are often presented 
as an important adjunct to, or challenge to, journalism, but here were 
are clearly treating them differently -- this probably makes some sense 
given the often much more personal nature of some blogs, but 
nonetheless it is an interesting angle.)


On Dec 21, 2004, at 1:40 PM, Mark D. Johns wrote:

> At 11:48 AM 12/21/2004, you wrote:
>> We had this issue a while ago on this list, and I just want to repeat 
>> my view:
>> Blogging, Webpublishing and Usenet posting are demonstrably public 
>> activities. Unless you render the concept of "private" so ambigious 
>> that it becomes virtually unusable, this is an empirical fact, not a 
>> normative statement.
>> Therefore, publishing research on these kinds of communications does 
>> not violate any privacy/confidentialty laws. At least that is the 
>> case for most countries that guarantee some freedom of speech rights.
>> While I have no idea about the bylaws of specific universities or 
>> professional associations, I would strongly caution against 
>> regulations that curtail the rights of academics vis-a-vis 
>> non-affiliated citizens or even journalists.
>> Of course, some exceptions with respect to vulnerable persons apply, 
>> but by and large vulnerable persons do not do blogging.
>> BTW, you are not doing (experimental) research on human subjects, but 
>> on communications.
>> Thomas
> That is your view, it is a common one, and you are entitled to it. 
> However, there are other views that are equally valid. If you read the 
> guidelines you would understand that they are simply that, not 
> regulations. But, like it or not, some regulations, created not by 
> AoIR but by various governments and institutions, do apply. What is 
> legal in one jurisdiction is not always legal in another. What is 
> legal is not always ethical. And what is legal and ethical is not 
> always approved by an IRB. I'm simply pointing out -- as is AoIR in 
> adopting the guidelines -- that this is not a simple, "one size fits 
> all" issue. Much depends on the researcher, the nature of the 
> research, where the institution happens to be located, and the views 
> of the individual IRB. The guidelines are intended to help researchers 
> like Oriana sort it all out.
> ------
> Mark D. Johns, Ph.D.
> Asst. Professor of Communication/Linguistics,
> Luther College, Decorah, Iowa
> http://faculty.luther.edu/~johnsmar/
> -----------------------------------------------
> "Get the facts first. You can distort them later."
>     ---Mark Twain
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Nathaniel Poor, Ph.D.
Communication Studies
University of Michigan

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