A group of colleagues from the Uni of Wollongong and I are all heading down to the Digital Humanities Australasia conference from 28-30 March at the Australian National University. Together we will be hosting a panel entitled, “Privacy, ethics, and identity: critical intersections in digital humanities research”, which engages with both user impressions of privacy in online communities and social networks, and also the ethical role of the researcher/ethnographer in relation to user privacy concerns and affordances. As many IRBs / HRECs lag far behind in understandings of participant privacy in digital spaces, our panel will discuss the entitlements of online participants as to privacy, and in particular address if current notions of online privacy still apply in the dynamic landscape of digital humanities research.
I will be discussing in particular some of the ethical research issues that arose from my dissertation research. According to the limitations set by the HREC at my uni, it would be acceptable to use all information gathered from public websites. When researching vidding communities, however, I was struck by the gap between how private the vidders assumed their journals and vids to be, and how public they actually were. While it was deemed public, the vidders didn’t believe it to be so or expect anyone outside of their own peers to be viewing this material, leading to an inevitable ethical issue for me as a researcher.
My fellow panel members will be exploring related issues from their own research into Facebook (Ellen Wilkinson), music communities (Andrew Whelan), and gamers (Chris Moore). I’m looking forward to it!