Saturday, 15 December 2012

Studying cyborgs: re-examining internet studies as human subjects research

an article by Ulrike Schultze (Southern Methodist University & Lund University, Dallas, USA) and Richard O Mason (Southern Methodist University, Dallas, USA) published in Journal of Information Technology Volume 27 Issue 4 (December 2012)


Virtual communities and social networks assume and consume more aspects of people’s lives.

In these evolving social spaces, the boundaries between actual and virtual reality, between living individuals and their virtual bodies, and between private and public domains are becoming ever more blurred.

As a result, users and their presentations of self, as expressed through virtual bodies, are increasingly entangled. Consequently, more and more Internet users are cyborgs. For this reason, the ethical guidelines necessary for Internet research need to be revisited.

We contend that the IS community has paid insufficient attention to the ethics of Internet research.

To this end, we develop an understanding of issues related to online human subjects research by distinguishing between a disembodied and an entangled view of the Internet.

We outline a framework to guide investigators and research ethics committees in answering a key question in the age of cyborgism: When does a proposed Internet study deal with human subjects as opposed to digital material?

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