The Media Anthropology Network‘s recent e-seminar discussing Erkan Saka‘s paper on blogging as a research tool, came to an end and I’ve been trying to work some of the ideas into my research proposal.
Here is what I’m working with:
Concern was expressed over the legalities, and ethical concerns of sharing confidential information on a blog – with some arguing that all data collected must be kept confidential, and hence it would not be legal do collect any data for social research in such a public fashion. Here in Canada we have ethics review boards, which have ethical “guidelines” but not such drastic controls. But the key concern here is that such a public medium could be harmful in many cases. In my proposal I’m pushing for the benefits of being transparent with ones research at all phases (pre-proposal, during fieldwork, and during the writeup) – and for allowing anonymous responses (which might help voice criticism). At the same time, I’m taking heed of this advice and setting up ground rules for publishing “data” i collect – ie: possibly separate permission forms to share information on the blog (ie to post an interview perhaps). At the same time, I mostly intend to post bits and pieces of analysis, and ideas about the project – with less filtered notes being kept offline, privately.
Aside ethics, was the issue of ownership – if a research project opens itself up to discussion throughout the project, who takes credit for the authorship? This fits into discussions of intellectual property, publishing, and “remixing” academics. It also again depends on how the blog is used as a research tool.
Another important point was that in order for blogging to gain respectability (as a research tool) certain rules and standards must be met. At first I thought this meant, “peer review standards” but now that I consider blogging about a broader range of topics, I see the challenge such formalities would bring. Do I split my postings up into two blogs, one formal dedicated to research ideas, and another informal dedicated to… anthropology and everything? Using the blog as a research tool brings up some serious conflicts between formal and informal writing (when mixing topics anyways)… A classmate suggested I create a separate blog for research, but I really like the way Enkerli blends it all together… The media list had no real suggestions on this one – although Erkan Saka mixes messages well and says it has been helpful writing about soccer and his research. I’ll probably do the same, as I feel the diversity of topics let’s me express myself more openly.
There was also some interesting discussion about how one should engage people as a researcher – some worried that they might alienate possible informants if they exposed their work too early in the project. Clearly, this has a lot to do with what kind of research one is doing. I liked Erkan’s position that “there are of course cases that one should tactically move.” I’m not much of a tactician – I tend to blurt things out in a hot headed manner, then trust that honesty and discussion can prevail over any immediate bumps! There is certainly an element of experience needed to work all these issues out – ie: I’m still not able to stop myself from publishing rants that need deleting soon after, and RSS readers pick this stuff up so you can never really delete it – causing all sorts of embarrassment for the new blogger. But I think overall its worthwhile!
And to wrap it up, the point was made that there are different ways to blog – and some ways are more open to building conversation than others. Erkan discussed how when it came to writing his thesis, he found his blog to be an essential source to turn to. So I find it becomes a matter of striking a balance – between using it for keeping track of ideas, and to building community interest and discussion. I’ve been mixing both kinds of posts – “opinion” pieces, and “taking a note of this” pieces. Some are meant to be engaging, others are meant as yellow stickies (creating a data archive) to focus my interests later.
Check out the whole discussion here.