Abstract - The Information Society 12(2)

Linguistic and critical analysis of computer-mediated communication: Some ethical and scholarly considerations

Susan Herring

Two proposals (Cavazos 1994 and King 1996) relating to whether and how computer-mediated communication (CMC) researchers should cite electronic messages used as data are compared. Although the proposals prescribe opposite solutions, both contain similar assumptions about the nature of CMC and about the nature of research. These assumptions are argued to reflect discipline-specific biases that exclude other legitimate forms of CMC research. Two examples are discussed of research paradigms that are excluded by the guidelines: linguistic analysis in the positivist tradition, and critical analysis in the social realist tradition. The critical paradigm in particular raises a number of additional ethical considerations not addressed by the proposed guidelines. It is suggested that existing ethical guidelines within each discipline largely suffice to guide on-line research, with the addition of a CMC-specific recommendation clarifying the rights and obligations of researcher and researched in restricted-access as compared with open-access on-line groups.

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