Ethical research and the internet

I am excited about doing fieldwork in a non-exotic location. I think it is going to be a good challenge to have to earn the trust of people and to have to justify the value of my research to those people who are providing me with data. I wonder though if it is bad that there is a rather honest account of the development of my project sitting online. Surely it is only fair if I expect people to talk to me that they have the ability to look up where I am coming from.

My supervisor said something about not taking any of what I have been reading ‘into the field’ as it will alienate people and contaminate my data. Maybe I have an unbalanced view as getting ideas shot down in the field was challenging but ultimately very useful in my honours fieldwork. However, you can get through honours with a lot less data than a PhD and I do not think that my honours fieldwork did not lead to any highly original insights.

I am very lucky to get to do this research and have the ability to read and learn about things which I find so fascinating. I know a lot of other people do not have the same opportunities and interests as me. I am also sure that the reasons people will help me ‘in the field’ will differ greatly to the motivations behind my research. I do not think these differences are bad things. How you can end up with ‘uncontaminated’ data in any vaguely ethnographic (or indeed any social research) I do not know.

The reason I am thinking about this now is I have been slowly subscribing to Twitter feeds and am thinking of posting this link on my Twitter profile. At the moment my attitude is that if people are interested in seeing my blog they can, and if they are not they do not have to. I do not intend on posting details that will identify anybody else. So if you are reading this and you have any concerns just let me know.

I have not even thought of how I might use Twitter in my research. I am thinking of not going there simply because I think the ethics process might prove a drain on my time that could otherwise be used for more central concerns.

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