[Air-L] blogs and confidentiality

Porter, James E. Dr. porterje at muohio.edu
Mon Nov 28 06:52:30 PST 2011

>> Rather than entering the research enterprise with the above points as
>> assumptions, I would advise researchers to begin the process with these
>> points as questions: For example, Are there members of my institution's IRB
>> who actually have experience with Internet research and who could not only
>> understand my research but actually productively help advise its design? Did
>> the writers of this blog actually *intend* to publish this work for public
>> display and circulation?
> i don't think this is a valid test, you can't get to the information you want
> without intervening and thus breaking the model of research.  Intent in any
> case is mutable, they might intend it today and not intend it tomorrow.

I agree, intent is tricky. But I was not proposing intent as a litmus test
or ethical prescription. I was proposing it as a question to be asked as
part of the process of research ethics. If the answer happens to be, "No, as
far as I can tell from available information, the writer did not intend" ...
well, that doesn't necessarily mean consent is required or the data cannot
be used. Not at all. There may be other compelling reasons in force, such as
the ones you mention (e.g., document already exists in a publicly available
archive). Again, my point is not an ethical prescription, it's a point about
research process: (1) ask the question, and (2) answer the question in terms
of particular circumstances. Your follow-up questions are just the kind of
circumstantial questions I think researchers should be asking.
> The question I'd ask here is less intent but
> 'where can i find the data?'  Is it in a search engine, is it in an archive,
> is it in the library of congress archive, etc. etc.  Has it been referenced or
> referred to by other people?  in other words is there clear evidence that the
> public is using this published document?

Jim Porter

James E. Porter, Professor
Department of English and
Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies
Director of Composition

Department of English
Bachelor Hall 356A
Miami University
Oxford, OH  45056
email: porterje at muohio.edu
twitter: http://twitter.com/reachjim
web: http://www.units.muohio.edu/english/People/Faculty/I_P/PorterJames.html

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