[Air-L] twitter research

Liz nwjerseyliz at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 4 12:31:25 PST 2010

Back in the dark ages (okay, 1999), I was analyzing content of some message board posts for a project and scholars were just raising the ethical question about whether consent was required in online research since, in those days, people didn't use their actual names but pseudonyms. I interacted with some people for years & years without knowing their name or what state they lived in.

These days since people do use their own names, I think consent is important unless 1) the individual is a "public figure" (company spokesperson, celebrity, business) or 2) you are detaching the content from the individual user and looking at patterns and not isolating individual conduct & language.

When I joined Twitter in the Spring 2008, I faced a small backlash during the summer when some folks found out that I was an ethnographer/sociologist and they assumed I was monitoring their conduct & words. It took months before I assuaged some of them that I wouldn't appropriate their Tweets, that I was a participant on the network like anyone else.

I do study Twitter but I've limited myself to the top users (50K+ Followers) and study growth in account numbers, not in the content of the messages per se.

Liz Pullen
nwjerseyliz at yahoo.com

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