New research assistant in DIGETIK to update the massive ethical challenges guide

On September 1, 2019, Line Lisberg Christensen (re)joined the DIGETIK team as the community’s research assistant. Line will be working closely with community lead Malene Charlotte Larsen, Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University. Her primary responsibility – and first order of business – is to update DIGETIK’s impressively comprehensive guide (or collection of resources) on ethical issues and challenges in digital research.

We’ve interviewed Line about her new position, her tasks and her expectations heading (back) into the DIGETIK community. Stick around for a short read below, and catch up on what’s new in DIGETIK.

What are your main work tasks?

“My primary task is to update the guide “Ethical challenges in digital research” [both available as a web page and PDF]. I’m finding new publications and resources to add to the guide. It’s labour-intensive, but exciting.

I plot keywords into “Publish or Perish”, the search engine finds a couple of thousand results, and then I’ll work my way through them like a literature review of sorts. Qualifying the resources is an extensive process of elimination. First, I assess the relevance of any article from the title. If it looks interesting and relevant, I’ll review the abstract, and if that’s not sufficient for estimating overall relevance, I’ll go through the article. It’s an elaborate process, but nonetheless exciting.

Apart from this work, I might also be teaching and doing research for an article at some point.”

Why is this area interesting and important in your opinion?

“It’s exciting and relevant because we have to think about how we “use each other” for research – how we treat the ones we collect data from, especially in regards to the digital research landscape. There’s done so much work on how to work ethically sound and responsibly, but even so, it still proves challenging because it’s an area full of grey zones. And when it comes to digital research, there are no clear guidelines yet. For me, it’s all about how ethics compels us to reflect on how we treat each other.

Then, especially, the research opportunities in the digital era raise new questions. Now, all of a sudden, there are no boundaries for the ways in which we can collect data about each other, and how we can monitor each other. In the digital landscape, there are constantly new developments which in turn prompt new questions to ask. This is what makes it exciting: There will never be a final “correct answer” for how to do digital research, but ethics can help us build frameworks and guidelines.”

About “Ethical challenges in digital research – a guide to discuss ethical issues in digital research”

The guide by DIGETIK has been made to to help scholars reflect and discuss the ethical dimensions of their digital research, whilst providing guidance and insight about how to deal with these issues.

The DIGETIK community has compiled a list of articles, papers, books, book chapters, guidelines and journals which can aid researchers and students alike.

Extract from the introduction to the guide

“Whether we research tweets, posts and pictures from social media (Highfield & Leaver, 2015; Stroud, 2016; Stirling, 2016), consider the context when conducting research with children (Aarsand, 2016; Ess, 2014; Khoja, 2016; Staunæs & Kofoed, 2015), ask existentialist questions about programs vs. people (Lunceford, 2016) or carry out research with the aid of ecofeminist methodology  (Romberger, 2017),  questions of research ethics occur. Research ethics should be at the center of attention for researchers dealing with human beings, their communication, interactivity, interactions, or the like. When dealing with digital research, we often experience ethical challenges differently than when we conduct research solely connected to the “offline” world. With the ability to obtain big data (Zimmer, 2016; Zimmer & Proferes, 2014) and using web archives as data sources (Brügger, 2017; Comstock, 2015), questions of consent, privacy, public, harm, and so on, no longer offer clear answers. This calls for adaptability and adoption of new means of collecting and processing data.

This document is created with the intention of helping scholars reflect and discuss the ethical dimensions of their digital research, whilst providing guidance and insight about how to deal with these issues. We have compiled a list of articles, papers, books, book chapters, guidelines and journals which we believe can aid researchers and students alike.”

The guide is developed by DIGETIK at Aalborg University as part of DIGHUMLAB Denmark. The guide is authored by Line Lisberg Christensen, Research Assistant, Malene Charlotte Larsen, Associate Professor, and Sanne Tarp Wind, Student Assistant. The latest version is from October 2018.

What can researchers and students gain from DIGETIK?

“The guide on ethical challenges in digital research is a very valuable resource, just waiting to be used by both researchers and students. When I was a student, I needed a good understanding of how “fuzzy” and complicated it can be to collect data about human beings. The DIGETIK guide is a great place to start to get that understanding. It is not just for researchers; even for students, it can lend you a helping hand when you venture into data collection involving people.”

What are your expectations for this position?

“I’ve worked with Malene before, so I know what I’m jumping into, and she’s a wonderful co-worker to have. I look forward to learning more about what it means to be a researcher from her.”

About Line Lisberg Christensen

Line Lisberg Christensen holds a BA degree in Communication and Digital Media from Aalborg University and a Master in Techno-Anthropology, also from Aalborg University.