[Air-L] public/private [part 1 of 2]

Jeremy Hunsinger jhuns at vt.edu
Mon Aug 13 06:00:20 PDT 2007

I would advise you to remove your blogs then because it is very  
likely that if it is linked to anywhere or hosted on a major blogging  
platform that it is in one of the research compediums of blogs.  if  
we can find it through google blogsearch or technorati, then it is  
likely it is in one or more research collections.

it is not that you are putting up a window...   it is that you are  
sending out broadsheets and posters on the fence, on the side of your  
house, probably into public mailboxes, etc. etc..   i don't have to  
look into the window to see what you've done, i can take photos from  
the street, comment on the architecture, etc.  If i

a disclaimer won't really solve your issue either, it might be  
respected, but only if you do it in a machine readable way.  a  
robot.txt file excluding all search engines will go much farther than  
a disclaimer.
On Aug 13, 2007, at 7:15 AM, jcu wrote:

> Thank you for your reply here.
> Here is a personal anecdote ...
> I keep a few blogs because I use the blog format
> as a writing tool. Although I do allow comments,
> I do not actively solicit commenters (ie. I do not 'blog'
> by visiting others' blogs and dropping comments on
> their sites to get them to visit mine). Nor do I often
> respond to any comments that may get left on my blogs
> (ie. I do not encourage blog traffic or blog noise).
> The main purpose of my blogs is to use them as writing
> tools, for me to 'see' my writing 'published' for the sake
> of playing with literary form and visual design.
> My blogs are for me, even if, every once in a
> while, someone discovers them. But based on your comments,
> I will now add a disclaimer to the bottom of my blog which
> states "No research here".
> It would be highly unethical to me if any researcher quietly
> observed my blogs for the sake of "research".  Like someone
> peering through an open window in the name of research and
> claiming the contents of the window as 'public domain'
> (even though I do not publish my actual name anywhere on my
> blogs, nor do I write any questionable material that names
> or harms others). If a researcher were to reveal their presence
> and their research agenda to me, I would say no without
> hesitation. If they refused, I would immediately remove my blogs.
> The point is, you can't assume anything about anything
> in virtual space.
> respectfully,
> jcu
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Lois Ann Scheidt" <lscheidt at indiana.edu>
> To: <air-l at listserv.aoir.org>
> Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 7:21 AM
> Subject: Re: [Air-L] public/private [part 1 of 2]
>> Ed, It's interesting to me that you say you have no agenda but you
>> chose to reply to a private message in public...and you quoted my  
>> email
>> without asking me in advance.  Very interesting
>> You have now wound back to my first email, where I addressed the
>> confusion about   the unit of analysis.  If the unit of analysis  
>> is the
>> webpage only, then of course application to an IRB is required in the
>> US.  But it will, most likely be exempt level research.  You are not
>> analyzing people, you are analyzing the artifacts they produce...the
>> text.  And publicly available text, etc. is similar  to a letter  
>> to the
>> editor in any major newspaper...the producer placed the work in a
>> publicly accessible location and unlocked it for the standard uses
>> allowed under the law.  Do the producers always know that's what they
>> did...of course not...and in those cases we educate.
>> As Marj has said, ethnographic work is different, assuming that  
>> you are
>> "participating" as well as "observing" and everything is in a  
>> publicly
>> accessible local.  I sincerely hope that the newbie researchers  
>> reading
>> this  thread made note of an earlier post that pointed out the
>> sometimes dichotomous definitions of "public" and "private".   
>> Sometimes
>> the term "publicly accessible" is clearer...in that a mall may be
>> private property but the owners of that private property are  
>> running a
>> publicly assessable establishment and have very few reasons they can
>> legally ask someone to leave.  Another example would be that you  
>> can't
>> yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater but you can study the way  
>> people
>> sit physically while they are there, and that too would be exempt  
>> level
>> research...as long as you are only observing.
>> Ed, your most recent email appears to be saying that you are  
>> concerned
>> that research is being conducted without IRB review.  I think you  
>> will
>> find that others share that concern.  However no where in your  
>> previous
>> posts do I find that being stated as your primary concern...nor do I
>> find the concern about IRB oversight being clearly articulated.   
>> It's a
>> very different discussion than saying that the creator's of
>> intellectual property have final say on that properties use in any
>> situation...assuming they didn't post their blogs with an explicit
>> statement that research is allowed.
>> And finally, neither here or in my private email to you did I  
>> express a
>> need for guidance.  Your "mind-reading" decision that a title  
>> makes you
>> the "expert" and my lack of that title makes me the "learner" is
>> interesting, and while I can't address your qualifications I can
>> address my own...and I am not in need of guidance related to the
>> material I have discussed here or in my private email.  While it is
>> wonderful that AoIR and other listservs reach out to assist students
>> who ask for help, it is also best for those who answer to do more  
>> than
>> express their opinions...opinions alone are very unhelpful to grad
>> students as many of them are looking for "the right" answer and may
>> confuse an opinion with the actual process.
>> I have to note, that in a previous email I commented on the problems
>> with "mind-reading" subjects rather than asking them about their
>> expectation of privacy.  Mind-reading is never good, and it is always
>> both a controlling behavior and one that places the mind-reader above
>> the mind-read person...the mind-reader knows best.  I for one do not
>> believe that my studies, and my good fortune in both being able to  
>> take
>> the time for PhD studies or for having the access to funding to  
>> gain my
>> degree, gives me some superior insight into another persons thinking,
>> asking is always best.  Now if a blogger posted "NO RESEARCH HERE." I
>> would have to think twice before I would know if I would use that  
>> site
>> in my research.  No doubt I would be consulting with some of my
>> colleagues on this list who are experts in ethics, law, and human
>> subjects work.
>> I would have remained in this "public/private" discussion, prior  
>> to you
>> calling me out, had I felt that it was actually an academic
>> discussion...rather then one person using a baseball bat to force  
>> their
>> "opinion" on others.  As I have said previously in this thread, it's
>> like watching someone who thinks they are arguing against the  
>> Tuskegee
>> Syphilis Studies with people who are supporting that  
>> research...when no
>> one here is supporting harm to subjects or the creators of the
>> artifacts we study.
>> I want to caution anyone new to the "human subjects" debate, that  
>> when
>> you read IRB rules or any Human Subjects legal documentation please
>> remember these documents were created, in very legalistic  
>> language, to
>> primarily address historic problems with medical and psychological
>> research.  I am in no way saying they do not apply to social science
>> research, rather that they don't fit us neatly...hence so many of  
>> these
>> discussions must be had as we work through how old rules apply to new
>> situations.  I would also caution new researchers to talk to experts,
>> and to read published ethical and IRB essays and research so they  
>> know
>> the prevailing point of view...don't just take a faculty members word
>> for it, you need to take the time to learn it yourself, because you
>> will be held responsible for your own research ethics.
>> Lois Ann Scheidt
>> Doctoral Student - School of Library and Information Science, Indiana
>> University, Bloomington IN USA
>> Adjunct Instructor - School of Informatics, IUPUI, Indianapolis IN  
>> USA and
>> IUPUC, Columbus IN USA
>> Webpage:  http://www.loisscheidt.com
>> Blog:  http://www.professional-lurker.com
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jeremy hunsinger
Information Ethics Fellow, Center for Information Policy Research,  
School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  


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