Links: January

Some new interesting ethical research just out. Links go to the journal site (may require subscription) and abstracts are below.

“Go Away”: Participant Objections to Being Studied and the Ethics of Chatroom Research

Authors: James M. Hudson a; Amy Bruckman a
Affiliation: a College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
DOI: 10.1080/01972240490423030

Published in: journal The Information Society, Volume 20, Issue 2 April 2004 , pages 127 – 139


In this article we present an empirical study aimed at better understanding the potential for harm when conducting research in chatrooms. For this study, we entered IRC chatrooms on the ICQ network and posted one of three messages to tell participants that we were recording them: a recording message, an opt-in message, or an opt-out message. In the fourth condition, we entered the chatroom but did not post a message. We recorded and analyzed how subjects responded to being studied. Results of a regression analysis indicate significantly more hostility in the three conditions where we said something than in the control condition. We were kicked out of 63.3% of the chatrooms we entered in the three message conditions compared with 29% of the chatrooms in the control condition. There were no significant differences between any of these three conditions. Notably, when given a chance to opt in, only 4 of 766 potential subjects chose to do so. Results also indicate significant effects for both size and the number of moderators. For every 13 additional people in a chatroom, the likelihood getting kicked out was cut in half. While legal and ethical concerns are distinct, we conclude by arguing that studying chatrooms constitutes human subjects research under U.S. law, but that a waiver of consent is appropriate in most cases as obtaining consent is impracticable.
[No abstract available for second article]

One Response to Links: January

  1. drword563 says:

    I wonder what reaction, not to mention changes in results, Labov would have gotten in the “4th floor” study if he had told people he was recording them.

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