[Air-L] Internet research ethics - global perspectives

Charles Ess charles.ess at gmail.com
Thu Jun 18 06:59:12 PDT 2009

Dear AoIRists,

Recently, Elizabeth Buchanan (chair of the AoIR ethics working group and one
of our co-hosts/organizers for Internet Research 10.0 [!!] / AoIR 2009 in
Milwaukee) and I had the privilege and pleasure of offering a workshop on
Internet Research Ethics at the University of Washington, Seattle (21. May,
2009), followed by a research seminar at the UW Information School (22. May
2009 - funded by NSF SES grant 0646591).
Our topics in the latter were the internet and changes in (conceptions of)
Human Subjects and in internet research ethics.
In response to a most spot-on question from Lori Miller, Director of the UW
GenOM Project, regarding the possible role of virtue ethics, I tried to show
some very large connections between

internet research methodologies (ranging between the qualitative and the

(preferred/commonly used) ethical frameworks (virtue ethics - deontologies -
utilitarianism) (i.e., in evaluating the ethical dimensions of such

underlying assumptions/conceptions of the self (more community/relational -
[modern] atomistic)

underlying notions of and attitudes towards privacy,

and, finally,

"Eastern" and "Western" conceptions of self/community

in order to argue that we may be seeing an emerging,
"...shared sense of ethical norms, values, practices, etc. that will
constitute a pluralistic and global information ethics, including internet
research ethics as one particular component (Ess 2006, 2007). That is, as we
converge towards more relational senses of self, this sense of self will
bring in its train an increased emphasis on the sorts of virtue ethics
appropriate to such selves."

(A very long answer to a very simple question - but that's what one gets for
asking a philosopher, I suppose ...)

In all events, our hosts included Karine Barzilai-Nahon and Bob Mason, who
kindly requested a written version of the lecture, which I happily provided.

Karine, in turn, has posted the written version on her (otherwise most
impressive!) website at

I'm very grateful to Karine and her colleagues for their interest in making
this material available to a larger audience in this way - and would welcome
any comments, suggestions, criticisms, recommendations for additional
resources, etc. that AoIR-ists may have time and opportunity to provide.

Again, many thanks to Karine and all of our hosts at UW-Seattle -

- c.

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