Author: Ian Thomas, Cardiff University

Day One – Tuesday 25th June

Strand – Education

Session Two: 2.45pm – 4.15pm

Drawing on case studies of online research, in addition to experiences from conducting my own PhD thesis, this paper will provide an overview of the ethical decisions which have been made in these instances. I consider some of the theory behind the internet and new media as spaces, particularly regarding public/private-ness and the online/offline distinction, and how these inform the ethical procedures adopted. Though this discussion is organised under the heading of researching “online”, I use this term, despite its inadequacies, to refer to the wider set of technologies and new media which fall under the rubric of “the digital” – mobile phone applications for example. As this paper arose from reading undertaken as part of my PhD thesis into the use of digital media by men who have sex with men, there will be some focus on the ethics of researching sexual and sexualised settings.

I aim to demonstrate that the ethical dilemmas faced vary with the “site” under study and the methods used, but that our ontological understandings of the spaces involved and of computer-human interaction ultimately come to affect our ethical decision making.  I conclude by tentatively drawing out this later point as I am particularly interested in the consideration of post-human subjectivity and the challenge this poses to current ethical thinking.

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