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Weblog research ethics (2)

This is what I love about blogosphere: you post a question and keep being busy with other things while many smart people provide you with answers. Two days back I posted my questions on weblog research ethics that provoked quite a discussion.

The opinions regarding informing bloggers that you study them and asking permissions differ: Sylvie Noël suggests to do it anyway, while Alex Halavais regards weblogs as “the equivalent of public printed matter like newspaper articles, brochures, and books” (so I assume not asking).

In regard to quoting it’s a bit more clear.

Sylvie in comments:

As to quoting, well, it would depend if I’m treating the blog as a source for data or a source for information: if I’m studying the blog, then I’d ask for permission to quote, giving the person possibility of being anonymous or attributed because of the possibility of tracing back to the original author. If I’m using the blog for information, then I consider it as the equivalent of a research paper and I would not ask for permission (but of course I’d attribute the quotes to the author).

Alex adds that this is about balancing two potential responsibilities to your subjects: to protect their privacy and to recognize the authorship of the individual. It seems that the bottom line is to attribute, asking permission if you treat a quote as a data.

And thanks to hafey (who is linkless, but could be identified as “just a plain ol’ MBA trying desperately not to see the world through business as usual constructs”) I discover what Hawthorne Effect is 🙂

My further questions are triggered by Ed Bilodeau note that he is not likely to be citing weblogs as they are “not (yet?) valid supporting sources”. I thought about it quote a lot – should you refer to weblogs as references in an academic publication?.

My problem is that my thinking is heavily influenced by bloggers. More than by any papers I read. I pick up phrases and ideas from weblogs around me and I feel it’s not fair if I don’t attribute them only because they are not considered as “serious” enough. But then it goes against existing academic tradition. I’ve heard some academics saying that even conference papers are not good enough to be cited in a journal paper (ok, I guess that wasn’t about first class conferences).

If you add to it that there is not much weblog research published anyway (e.g. I’m not aware of any journal paper on weblogs; let me know if you are 🙂 it becomes quite difficult… Of course, 2004 seems to become a year of “weblog research gets into mainstream publications”, so I shouldn’t have this problem at the end of my PhD, but still.

Ah, I’m getting convinced more and more that I’m not well fitted for academia. Not the part that explores the world in a rigorous way, but the one with rules for publication and promotion that just don’t make a sense to me 🙂

This post also appears on channel weblog research

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2004/04/29.html#a1191; comments are here.

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