Abstract - The Information Society 12(2)

Considering the electronic participant: Some polemical observations on the ethics of on-line research.

Dennis Waskul and Mark Douglass

Ethical issues that emerge from the dynamic form of interaction that defines on-line ommunications are explored. On-line communications is a form of social interaction that is publicly private, anonymous, multiple and simultaneous, and faceless/nonoral. The publicly private nature of on-line interaction necessitates that researchers distinguish between what is publicly accessible and publicly distributed. It must be acknowledged that private interactions persist in spite of public accessibility. The anonymity of on-line interaction is fundamentally different from the anonymity that is prescribed by standards of ethical research, and care must be taken not to confuse the two. The multiple and simultaneous nature of on-line interaction poses logistical difficulties in the acquisition of informed consent. Finally, the faceless and nonoral nature of on-line interaction poses threats of extreme objectification.

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