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Trying to re-focus the blurred lines between researchers and participants in social media research

Conference Paper


Abstract


  • The methodological opportunities offered by new technologies, including social

    media, go beyond just transferring traditional research approaches to the digital

    environment. However, with the increase in diverse methods facilitated by the

    advent and adoption of digital technology come new ethical questions for

    researchers. This paper recognises the impact of digital media on consumer and

    citizen behaviour and explores the blurred lines between the participant and the

    researcher in order to suggest a way forward for researchers. This blurring can be

    illustrated in the several ways. First, social media research may often start with a

    group such as an online community and then drill down to individual behaviours

    within that group so there exists an overlap of group and individual relationships.

    Second, the creation, augmenting and sharing of information between individuals and

    groups can smudge the edges of the original sampling frame. Third the increasing use

    of online participants to co-create or co-produce research instruments necessitates

    the question whether these individuals are being exploited. Fourth social media

    enables the accessing of new and 'hard to reach groups' who may have preferred to

    remain invisible. Fifth, the dilemma faced by researchers whether to identify

    themselves or lurk to prevent community de-stabilisation remains contentious. As

    clear strategies for the expected research norms within the social sciences domain

    have yet to be established for social media research, this paper contributes to

    moving the debate forward through deepening understanding of the questions that

    researchers need to consider when designing and implementing social media

    research.

Publication Date


  • 2016

Citation


  • Quinton, S. & Reynolds, N. (2016). Trying to re-focus the blurred lines between researchers and participants in social media research. Social Media and Social Science Research Ethics London: The Academy of Social Sciences.

Place Of Publication


  • London

Abstract


  • The methodological opportunities offered by new technologies, including social

    media, go beyond just transferring traditional research approaches to the digital

    environment. However, with the increase in diverse methods facilitated by the

    advent and adoption of digital technology come new ethical questions for

    researchers. This paper recognises the impact of digital media on consumer and

    citizen behaviour and explores the blurred lines between the participant and the

    researcher in order to suggest a way forward for researchers. This blurring can be

    illustrated in the several ways. First, social media research may often start with a

    group such as an online community and then drill down to individual behaviours

    within that group so there exists an overlap of group and individual relationships.

    Second, the creation, augmenting and sharing of information between individuals and

    groups can smudge the edges of the original sampling frame. Third the increasing use

    of online participants to co-create or co-produce research instruments necessitates

    the question whether these individuals are being exploited. Fourth social media

    enables the accessing of new and 'hard to reach groups' who may have preferred to

    remain invisible. Fifth, the dilemma faced by researchers whether to identify

    themselves or lurk to prevent community de-stabilisation remains contentious. As

    clear strategies for the expected research norms within the social sciences domain

    have yet to be established for social media research, this paper contributes to

    moving the debate forward through deepening understanding of the questions that

    researchers need to consider when designing and implementing social media

    research.

Publication Date


  • 2016

Citation


  • Quinton, S. & Reynolds, N. (2016). Trying to re-focus the blurred lines between researchers and participants in social media research. Social Media and Social Science Research Ethics London: The Academy of Social Sciences.

Place Of Publication


  • London