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Arts & Humanities Research Council
British Academy

Ethics of Online Research in Russian and East European Studies

Start: Nov 21, 2012 12:00 AM

Location: University of Manchester

A postgraduate workshop organised by CEELBAS.

Online research is carried out in a broad range of academic disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. With the increasing use of Internet as both an object and a medium of research, the ethics of online research has become an important area of scholarly concern.

The workshop was aimed at post-graduate researchers in Russian and East European Studies whose projects are based on an extensive use of Internet and the digital media. Its goals were to increase the awareness of PhD candidates of emerging approaches to addressing ethical issues of online research and to provide a forum in which post-graduate researchers in the field could learn about each other’s projects and discuss common concerns.

Workshop Materials

The materials here have been collated from the workshop participants in the hope that the issues addressed will be of use to other researchers in our field.

The keynote presentation by Dr. Helene Snee (Manchester) offered a comprehensive overview of common challenges facing online researchers, with particular focus on bloggers as both authors and subjects in research.

Authorship was also a powerful theme for Elisa Coati, whose study of literature communities online showed blurred boundaries between professional and amateur authors, writers and fans, and offline and online access to modern Russian fiction: Read presentation and view slides.

Catherine Goodfellow’s study of Russian online gaming communities has also brought up issues of boundaries, and specifically understanding the difference between implicitly public and implicitly private material on forums and blogs. Read presentation and view slides.

Her presentation also shared with Tanya Zaharchenko’s work on cultural memory in Ukraine a preoccupation with the role of the researcher as both academic and community participant. Tanya also precipitated some fascinating discussion about the difficulty of researching politically and emotionally charged topics via online media which do not always effectively transmit tone. View slides.

Piotr Goldstein’s submission was more concerned with methodology; his presentation outlined the difficulties inherent in working with disparate non-governmental groups in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. As Piotr reminded us, the use of online methods can be a hindrance in cases where access to the Internet and a formal online presence are not common. View slides.

On the same practical note, Iryna Clark delivered a few words about the technical issues prevalent when working with ‘big data’, showing that there can be significant unintended consequences when using automated data capture methods. Her experience of an automated script being marked as hostile by news websites segued into a discussion of researcher safety and privacy when working on the notoriously virus- and malware-heavy RuNet.

This was the fourth event in the series of postgraduate research ethics workshops launched by CEELBAS in 2009. View details of previous workshops.