[Air-L] twitter research

Nikki Usher nusher at usc.edu
Thu Feb 4 12:57:42 PST 2010

I do have consent for these tweets - I'm doing an ethnography of a news
organization and these people are aware that part of my project focuses on
social media and this is ok via IRB as well because it is additional data
gathered through observation (as email would also fall under). People are
aware and have consented to participation in the project. In addition, they
are public figures - journalists who use their tweets as public vehicles to
promote their articles and other content to stimulate dialogue and discourse
on the web with readers of the paper and other journalists. As such, they
are well known and are intentionally trying to build audiences and be

On Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 3:31 PM, Liz <nwjerseyliz at yahoo.com> wrote:

> 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

Nikki Usher
PhD Candidate
Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
University of Southern California
mobile: 213-220-7824

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