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

Philippa Smith philippa.smith at aut.ac.nz
Sun Feb 26 14:20:54 PST 2012

Dear Nune,

Unfortunately I can't remember the reference for you (someone else might), but I remember reading in a book about a researcher who analysed a publicly accessed site where women with breast cancer shared their experiences.  Although no password was required, the researcher felt ethically bound, if I recall correctly, to contact those on the site about what was being analysed because it was dealing with a sensitive issue.  I therefore believe that care must be taken depending on the content of what is being researched.  Nothing is ever black and white with Internet research. This area of ethics and the Internet is ongoing and given the technology is still relatively new, a lot more discussion will ensue.   I would also query if there are any copyright issues regarding people's posted photographs if you are going to reproduce them as well as their comments. Presumably your academic institution will guide you on this.

Having said that I have been analysing comments on  a publicly accessible archived blog discussion for my PhD research and have interviewed both the blogger and moderator as they brought insightful information to my research - particularly regarding my interpretation which was often quite different to how they saw things.  I felt this added objectivity to my research. 
Good luck with your research.

Kind regards

Philippa Smith
PhD Candidate
Institute of Culture, Discourse & Communication
AUT University

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org [mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Nune Nikoghosyan
Sent: Monday, 27 February 2012 11:05 a.m.
To: Jeremy hunsinger; Charles Ess
Cc: Air list
Subject: Re: [Air-L] seeking advice regarding research on photo-sharing websites

Dear Charles, Dear Jeremy and all those who have replied to me off-list,

Thank you all for your kind advice and consideration!
I'd just like to clarify one point: the site's content is completely public, freely accessible to all visitors, with no need to create an account. All you'd need in order to read (and, eventually, analyze) any comments is to open the page and click on a photo. It's similar to viewing a "public" photo on Flickr and reading the comments that follow, with no need to sign in. So I didn't need to create an account for accessing the material, nor did I need a permission for such an access. The (ethical) question poses only now when it's about publication.

Thanks again,
Best regards,
Nuné Nikoghosyan

On 26 February 2012 20:19, Jeremy hunsinger <jeremy at tmttlt.com> wrote:

> Well, I think he should ask permission, but mostly because it is the 
> ethical option.  I expect that if he explains his use is non-profit 
> and research oriented, he'll be fine.
> I think that I would suspect that he would need to seek a lawyer's 
> opinion as to whether the terms of use actually apply to his case at 
> all, it is not always clear that they are enforceable across borders, 
> or that all of there terms are legal across borders. I am not a 
> lawyer, so i am just skeptical about it.
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