Digital Ethics

Whiting, Rebecca and Pritchard, Katrina (2017). Digital Ethics. In: Cassell, Catherine; Cunliffe, Ann and Grandy, Gina eds. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods. Sage.


We consider digital ethics, the moral principles or rules of behaviour that govern and guide qualitative internet research from its inception to publication and the curation of data. A number of overarching tensions are identified: flux and uncertainty regarding these rules, the type and status of ethical guidance, the lack of transparency around ethics in practice and the ‘problematic’ nature of qualitative research. Four key debates are then explored namely determining human participation, working with the private/public dilemma, seeking informed consent and from whom and deciding on anonymization or attribution. Looking ahead at the future directions, we consider the areas of researcher role and protection. We conclude with how we might channel the reflexivity that qualitative researchers already embrace when engaging with issues of validity, and use this for an ‘ethics as process’ case-based approach which features ongoing reflexive questioning of ethical considerations throughout the research cycle.

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