[Air-L] seeking advice regarding research on photo-sharing websites

Nune Nikoghosyan nunenik at gmail.com
Sun Feb 26 06:53:55 PST 2012

Dear Air list members,

I'm a Master's degree student in Sociology at the University of Geneva and
I'm preparing an article based on my graduation project about online
photography, and I'm writing to ask some advice regarding the "ethical"
side of such a publication.

My research consisted mainly in content analysis of comments written on a
photo-sharing website called TrekLens.com. The website's content, so all
photos and comments, are freely and publicly accessible to any visitor of
the site, with no need for a login or account to view the photos or read
the comments. In my analysis, all comments have been anonymized and no
usernames are visible. Furthermore, the few examples I give in the final
text are hardly identifiable, since they're only small bits from comments
and not the entire comments in themselves. In terms of privacy or harm, I
don't think I'm running any risks. I have also included a brief description
of the site and its tools, features and functionalities. However, the
website's terms of use forbid any use of its content without written
consent from the webmasters, even if all content is completely public:

My question is: will I breach any ethical or legal rules if my article is
published and do I, by all means, need the moderators' written consent? My
doubt in all of this is the possibility of refusal by the webmasters...

All advice will be of great value and most warmly appreciated!
Thank you all in advance,
Nuné Nikoghosyan

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