[Air-L] blogs and confidentiality

Porter, James E. Dr. porterje at muohio.edu
Mon Nov 28 09:27:52 PST 2011

> Instead of trying to figure out on an academic listserve what is private
> and what is public on a blog, what if we let the people who are writing
> these words decide?

I agree with the presumption of your rant, Terri. Actually I don't think
it's rant, it's a perfectly sensible ethical presumption. However, as an
operating principle "ask the writer" might not work or might not need to be
applied in certain circumstances. I'm thinking, for instance ...

1. The writer is dead, or for whatever reason inaccessible, practically
speaking. (This applies moreso to archival material, but increasingly, too,
to older Internet material.)

2. The writing is published in a clearly public publication forum, something
like Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. You would agree, I assume,
that for such venues, permission would not not required. The question on the
table -- a good one, I think -- is, Does that apply to blogs? Well, I think
there is not a universal answer for all blogs ... the principle does apply
to some blogs but not others. For personal, health-related blogs, I would
say that the presumption of privacy should be stronger.

3. The researcher wishes to quote for purposes of critique or unflattering
analysis -- and the writer might not wish to provide consent. We have to be
careful not to set up research protocols that impede or prevent legitimate

4. The researcher is doing aggregate analysis, not quoting excerpts, not
identifying people by name, not using any personally identifiable or
trackable information.

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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