Abstract - The Information Society 12(2)

What's wrong with the "Golden Rule"? Conundrums of conducting ethical research in cyberspace

Christina Allen

Three key values for ethical cyberspace research practices are evident in recent discussions:

  1. protect the subject from harm as a result of the research fieldwork and the research practices,
  2. produce good social science research, and
  3. do not unnecessarily perturb the phenomena studied.

Much of the argumentation aims to negotiate the ethical conflicts that often emerge between these goals. Bakhtin (1981,1984, 1986, 1990, 1993) argues that one can only strive for a bottom-up ethical wisdom built upon concrete examples, and disputes the possibility that rigid top-down application of universal rules constitutes ethical action. His perspective has key implications for ethical research practices. This perspective is illustrated through recent fieldwork and writing practices in a virtual community.

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