Internet Research Ethics

Halfway through the semester, the Research in Emerging Technologies: Social Tech class has curated content from all blog posts on Ethics of Internet Research by the class and information from #mscret touching on this topic. This collaborative work has yielded a database of different thoughts on areas covered in this module. This curated media is what I will be discussing about in this post, backing up with other sources and citing my own thoughts about the subject.

A progressive change of the Internet has seen a shift in to its application by users.

“…as the Internet has evolved into a more social and communicative tool and venue, the ethical issues have shifted from purely data driven to more human-centred.” (Buchanan, Elizabeth A. and Zimmer, Michael 2012).

The wide usage and accessibility to the internet and provision of instant information has contributed to on-line researches. The use of emails, forums or instant messaging(to mention a few) offers direct contact to relevant people in the line of research or subject area expects. This research may range form ‘looking something up’ on the web, for example the meaning of a word, to gathering information for personal understanding for example, how far in mileage is Oxford from London, to students researching for an academic paper/journal. However the authenticity of the information gathered can be a problem, but this depends on the skills of the researcher to filter unnecessary data and identify the authors’ credentials. For a scientific research method involving gathering measurable evidence by conducting test end experiments on humans and animals. As discussed earlier about ease of internet accessibility, direct contact to relevant individuals in the area of study has resulted in some human subject based test or experiments carried out on-line. This may seem as arguably an easy way for large samples of human subjects testing with a possibility of diverse crowd rather than an area limited group whose data is automatically coded reducing human error not forgetting cost effectiveness. However, there is risk of repeated participation, subjects dropping out of the test, or start the test, stop and join after a while or even rush through the test. To overcome some of these detriments an email address can be requested from subjects at least to lessen multiple participation but not so much of a solution with individuals having more than one email account. For a ‘dropping out’ drawback, an incentive could be offered to the subject, if they agree to give their contact details they could be entered in a draw to win a prize. In one of our guest Lectures, Professor Trevor Cox in his talk Psychoacoustic Testing: Web vs Laboratory to my class, gave us an exercise to fill in an on-line questioner on Speech in Noise Experiment and at the end of the experiment there was a choice of entering into a draw to win an Amazon voucher. Some researchers may suggest that subjects give email addresses if they are willing to take part in other experiments in future or interested in knowing the result of the experiment and this email address will be the only link between the subject and researcher..

  • The honours now is on the researcher to ensure that the information presented to them is used appropriately and contacts stored securely. The researcher should ensure that privacy is maintained with the data captured because some experiments will ask sensitive issues from subjects and if there is no anonymity then data confidentiality should be in practice so that there is no harm to subjects by exposing their sensitive information.
  • For ‘cloud computing’ based experiments for example where information is shared on an on-line drive for example Google docs or on-line sharing platforms like Drop box,steps must be taken to ensure that only authorised individuals have access to the ‘cloud’.
  • For Experiments involving Minors there may be need for parental consent depending on which country the experiment is being carried out in.
  • Briefly giving a clear and understandable explanation of the purpose of the research and why the research is being carried out and how the data is going to be used before hand then subjects will have to willingly agree to be tested on and have a choice of opting out at any time probably without having to explain themselves.

For our research project, ‘Is stereoscopic 3D the Future of Film making’, Sharon and I have made a given out an information sheet and consent form, explaining what the research is all about, confidentiality and safety data giving an opt out option with out any explanation if subjects do wish so here.

Bibliography

Buchanan, Elizabeth A. and Zimmer, Michael, “Internet Research Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/ethics-internet-research/.

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Reflection; My Unique Experience.

Looking back at the last 7 weeks of my journey into Research in Emerging technologies study at University of SalfordMSc Digital Media: Video, Audio and Social Technologies degree, it has been quite involving than I thought. This is a 2 part module consisting of Research Methods and Social Technologies with equal weighting. The Research Methods’ half involves an assessment of a mini research project. Sharon George and I are doing a Quantitative Research into the future of Stereoscopic 3D Film making. The aim is to gather information from responses through a survey questionnaire found here using statistics and be able to conclude whether Stereoscopic 3D is the future of Film making or not. The other, Social Technologies’ half aims to develop my online presence and network know-how. I am expected to participate in the online sphere through participatory media production alongside the academic study of digital culture and practices. I will then put my network know-how into practice through the exploration of ‘spreadable media’ basically using Henry Jenkins‘ theory by creating media artefacts, monitor, measure and analyse their spread through, my wordpress blog, twitter, or any other social media.

As I have said earlier on, this is so involving and requires a lot of reading literature in my area of study including books, journals, blog post to mention a few. Although I was kind of expecting this, the level at which I have to do it is slightly different. I have discovered that I aught  to have a critical awareness of relevant depth and breadth of knowledge in a professional capacity and a good level of communication. I was uncomfortable about blogging when I started the module. I had to blog because it is part of my assignment and I am being assessed on it, but as I posted blog after blog, I feel I am becoming more expressive. I may still be quite conservative in the way I discuss issues because of fear of risking mistakes but I see an improvement each time I blog.  Before I started this module, I had quite a number of social sites signed up. The main purpose was to communicate socially with friends and family and also browse for any interesting news. Some of these sites have been redundant and my main communication tool online was through emailing. I think this is because of the fear of risks of making mistakes(as mentioned above) on public domains leading to embarrassment and perhaps being ridiculed by friends and by communicating through email has more or less avoided a lot of online presence thereby reducing the risks. Also I was uncomfortable about exposing my identity online due to the talk that ‘Internet is full of Danger’ such as identity theft or stoking. Although this may be true, the same danger may well be the same offline.

I have had a gradual integration into social media, by participating more, I have seen an increase in my presence on  already signed up sites and have recently signed up  for more. Through lectures by  my tutor Helen Keegan and talks from guest speakers, I have managed to learn more social medial sites that have a great importance to my line of study as well as in building my professional online identity. Although creating a blog was part of my course work, I strongly feel that this has brought out the other side of me that has been hidden through communicating and interaction.  Cristina Costa gave my class a talk on a number of  issues, what particularly drew my attention was the ‘open access learning’ whereby some academic, journals, theses or even monographs are available to the public free of charge. I imagine the joys of stumbling upon a piece of information that is very relevant to my research without having to pay for it and would like to share the same feeling with the next person. In that light, I have managed to gradually built on my diigo and bitly bookmarks. anyone in my line of study may just find one of my bookmarks useful to their research.  Another speaker Hugh Garry, presented an in depth lecture on spreadable media and I have managed to reflect on that here.

These seven weeks have been quite challenging, there has been some trial and error posts, a lot of reading and research into blogging or tweeting for slightly different purposes other than just social interaction with friends and family. Coming from an ‘always someone else’s duty to produce such work’ I feel I have done reasonably well, however I have to keep blogging regularly and tweeting more to maintain the following that I have managed to build and possibly increase it. A weakness that I have found out is, I may be blog-posting weekly but I am not engaging well by commenting or reblogging on other blogs. This interaction may just help traffic to my blog. On twitter I may be a bit passive too but I am picking up. I have been following quite a few people as well as @SirNige who is a moderator of #263chat, every tuesday at UCT +2 hours the #263chat have a chat topic each week and I have been quite active there. I have been discovered by followers and have discovered mine through this chat-room and a few re-tweets that I have done.

Spreadable Media

Digital creative, event organiser, speaker, 15 years at the BBC Hugh Garry gave my class a talk on Spreadable Media. Very inspirational presentation which covered a lot and I managed to understand and pick on a few ideas concerning this topic.

We have come a long way in terms of media production and consumption. Since the advent of Radio Broadcasting by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901 and later Television catching up, this was just a one way communication whereby the ‘Consumer’ would listen or watch content from the broadcaster. Then came an era of the ‘Contributor’ were the consumer was able to contribute to the broadcast content through phone-in programmes or even writing to the editor in the case of print media. With advancement of technology, the era of the ‘Circulator’ followed, here the consumer was able to pass on some media through different platforms because of ease of technology. Then came the ‘Influencer’, for as simple as a product reviews posted online by shoppers, one’s decision on purchasing a product can be influenced by these reviews. Sometimes it only takes one person to post a critique on Twitter and a whole movement can begin. Then came the ‘Producer’ by now the consumer could produce own content and broadcast it themselves, a good a example is YouTube, I have explained how this process works in my previous blog post here. The evolution does not end here, we now have the ‘Financier’, here individuals are sponsoring(monetary) ideas they believe are worth developing for example Kickstarter. This is a funding platform for creative projects. These range from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others. Last but not least , Media Proprietor’, such as Netflix or Hulu, these platforms offer instant watch of films or television episodes streamed over the internet to your TV via a PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 or any other device or on mobile phones, tablets or computers. But some of these eras overlap in time of happening for example, social media movements are still happening to date as well as the era of media proprietor or financier.

The eras I have discussed in the paragraph above are part of today’ s Media circulation. This is only possible if there is active participation in passing on content among individuals or between a television show and its audience or between product manufacture and consumers. This permeability will allow constructive critisim of say a blog post, feedback on a television series or product reviews. Such interaction is important to improve a product or even a next blog post or get feedback on what the audience wants for the next series of a Television programme. If these are implemented well, a retention of followers may be possible or better still increase on the number of followers.

In content posting by individuals, fear of failure is the main contributor to hesitation but then again if you do not try how can you measure failure? Hugh Garry reiterated on how important it is to try and post any content on any platform even on twitter and how a 140 character count post can be able to change a situation, only when attempted in the first place. He also gave an example of how way back in the time of ‘Dub tape’, it could only take ten playbacks of a demo on dub tape before quality begin to deteriorate and maybe pay another £50 for a new one but technology these day can allow online hits even 200 as much as it may seem not many but miles better than 10 dub tape listens. Then stressed the point with this quote;

“A day in the wild is worth a month of guessing” Mike Krieger (co-founder of Instagram)

In 2011/2012 Arab uprising in Egypt and Tunisia, Twitter showed how social media is an interactive and ongoing conversation type of communication. Tweets helped to let others know where protests were taking place, and reach large numbers of people at once. In most areas media coverage was often censored and foreign journalists were not welcome, Twitter provided a way for protestors to share their unfiltered experiences with the world, and helped capture international attention and support. This may indicate that Spreadable Media is not only about marketing oneself but could be a way to get feedback on any subject and contribution to any Art and may very inspirational. Not all spreadable media is a success story but if it fails, then it may be a very good way of learning why and comeback with a better way next time, like a game. Overall this gives a chance to be part of a bigger network of bloggers, Instagramers and any other platform.

YouTube Culture

Since the founding of YouTube in 2005, it has grown so big that it is the third visited website on the internet and up to five million videos are viewed on this platform every month. Very interesting statistics can be found here. Most renowned Television stations are failing to match this for a number of reasons and I will briefly explain a few. Now YouTube tagline ‘Broadcast Yourself’ says it all, anyone who wants can broadcast themselves on this platform countless times. YouTube does not discriminate against quality of video or its content(needless to say that some posts have a very good quality), this alone is a passport for home video makers to post any video regardless, even from a mobile phone. As we all know producing a high end video will require a number of factors ranging from reasonable time input to decent cameras usually a bit costly (to mention but a few). Already its clear that probably more than twenty home videos can equate to, say  a half hour television programme in terms of cost or time. Individuals, even from their living rooms are able to broadcast themselves anytime of the day posting any subject area, we can safely say that to some extent boundaries do not exist unless if the posts are offensive in another context in which case YouTube admin will deal with that.

What content then do we find on YouTube? there are a lot of ‘How to’ videos, humour/fun videos, protest videos, parody videos, the list is endless. I have to confess that I have sometimes searched for videos on how to do my hair. 🙂 This kind of content seems, is what the population of today wants,  we need our hands held for certain tasks, in my case doing my hair, we need to laugh after a long day at work, we need to watch a favourite band live on stage for a show we could not attend, and the list goes on.

So YouTube becomes a source of free information of almost any subject area one can think of the same kind of set up as conventional Television stations(old media) differing on other aspect that i will not mention on this topic. The different channels on Television can be equated to the different channels on YouTube that post different subjects areas. Individuals package their little video and post it on YouTube and we can safely say become producers or journalist because they are telling some kind of story. Since this is directly linked to the traditional way of media coverage in the sense that we have a producer then we have the platform then consumer whereas  with YouTube(new media), is more or less using the same concept as old media but the consumer becomes a producer of content already there is a blur in consumer-producer relationship which Henry Jenkins has described as ‘Media Convergence’ here and is another big discourse area that i will not touch.

Why do individuals broadcast themselves on YouTube? The content type will determine how many views one will get on the post. The more a post gets viewed then sponsors get attracted and opportunities crops up for example appearing in advertisements as the face of a product since already there is evidence of a command of followers. This is just one example and some people are actually making a living by getting paid for advertisements featured on their video posts. Some people are just talented and they want a platform to showcase their Art and may just end up celebrities because their content has attracted so many viewers and those who just want attention from a lot of people or just want to have a bit of fun/laugh. According to YouTube, 72 hours of video is uploaded daily, what then do these numbers mean for individuals who uploads videos? Simply put, there is steep competition, there is need for that distinction whereby some videos can generate so many hits due to content or how the video is spread. This spread of content to the extent of up to a million of hits for a specific period is what Henry Jenkins explains in detail here, the theory of ‘Spreadable Media’. In some cases YouTube users linkup with other fellows who are doing well on YouTube, produce content and this may just increase their audience and hits.

There is also another side to this ‘glorious’ operation, the fact that thoughts, feelings and even identities are put out there for the whole world, it means YouTube users are at a vulnerable position to stokers, or disturbing comments on this platform. This is the reason why there is a number of people who are sceptical about signing up to internet sites because of fear of such happenings. But after all said, I was impressed with how, what someone may call a silly video can change another person’s life, Cory William who has 516 006 subscibers and a total of 228 899 880 YouTube video views says in ‘Butterflies YouTube Documentary Movie’ here, his ‘Make Poop’ video helped an Australian girl stop herself from committing suicide. This is quite positive in my opinion how a YouTube video can influence someone’s actions. Where YouTube is going and what may happen in a few years or months time is something we can predict.

Remixes

I have just watched Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 video series of ‘Everything is a Remix’ by Kirby Ferguson. He defines ‘Remixing’ as an act of combining or editing existing material to produce something new, a process of collecting material, combining and transforming it.

Technology companies, Musicians or Film production houses have in their creativity used an idea or sample or scene from other companies, musicians or previous films in order to create their own product. In legal terms one’s idea is regarded as an intellectual property which deserved certain rights. So this usage of other people’s ideas to create your own product can be regarded as copying or plagiarism in courts of law and lawsuits begin to happen.

On one hand, I clearly understand the whole idea of taking someone to court because of plagiarising your work and proceeding to making their own product out of your creativity. Usually if it is a tangible product, the copy is likely to be cheaper since there is a production stage that has been missed, the invention stage’s overheads, therefore the end product is cheaper compared to the original. On the market, the original product may suffer in terms of profit, hence the process of taking each other to court. However on the other hand as Kirby Ferguson explained in one of his four part series;

“Nobody starts out original, we need copying to build the foundation of knowledge and understanding…”

I agree to this statement because almost all creativity has developed from what has come before. It is funny how, when one is ‘Remixing’ the work of others, they justify it but when others remix their work then problems begin. Steve Jobs (1996) the Co-founder of Apple Inc. once said;

“We have been shameless about stealing great ideas…”

according to K. Ferguson, on his ‘Everything is a Remix’ series, Xerox created its first computer in the early 70’s called the Alto and in 1981 created the Star 8010 two and three years before the Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh (a follow up of Lisa) respectively. All these creations had graphic user interfaces. Apple’s creation had a one button mouse and other graphical functions perceived to be better engineering compared to Xerox’s Star 8010. Not just a better creation, Apple’s Macintosh creation was cheaper at $ 2500 compared to the $17 000 Star 8010. Even though Apple may have used Xerox’s creativity , Alto is an evolutionary branch of the NLS system which used windows and a mouse to sketch pad drawing application and this system used the work of Mamax (resembling the modern PC) a decade before. So using work of others to create a new or better product has been happening for a long time. This ‘interdependency of creativity’ is still happening today and Android, like any other creator may have used Ferguson’s ‘Collect, Combine and Transform’ theory and this is what happened;

“I am going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” (Steve Jobs 2010).

As Ferguson pointed out, in this day in age, we are struggling to deal with the interdependency of creativity legally, ethically and artistically. Please enjoy the video.

Blogging

The power of the Internet

Image

I have been blogging for a few days now, mainly because this is an assignment for one of my modules Research in Emerging Technologies and I am going to be assessed on it. For fun’s sake I wanted to find out if there is anyone out there checking my blog out apart from my classmates and my Tutor Helen, surprise surprise I have 149 hits from different countries across the world. Now it may be nothing to a regular blogger or some but for me, it is fascinating. This may just change my whole thinking about Blogging. I may have been waffling about boring subjects but i am hoping that among the 149 who took time to open and maybe read the content on my blog, they have picked one idea that is beneficial to them.  Thanks to the people who have viewed my blog, now that I know people are viewing my content, i will continue to post regularly. 🙂

Interdisciplinary research

In preparation for my main Dissertation, I have a mini research I am carrying out with another student as mentioned in my earlier Blogs. Dr Marianne Patera, my tutor, organised a speaker, Dr Bill Davies, to come and talk to us about Interdisciplinary Research. This is the kind of topic I have not gone into depth during my 1st degree course. We discussed about how to formulate a research question and make a hypothesis. To evaluate this discussion, we went into small groups to form a research question then make a Hypothesis. Clare Wells, Sharon George and I discussed about the use of disposable foam ear plugs provided by employers in Clubs and Pubs for their staff. We thought up to what extent are their ears protected from the loud sounds they are subjected to during their hours at work. This is an issue Claire discussed with her friends who raised concerns about how they think their ears are being damaged at their work place. Well for us this seemed like a good research topic to make a hypothesis for. Now we looked at the methodology for data collection that will result in us concluding if this group of people are having their ears damaged or not first. We found out that for more accurate results, this research was going to be carried out once per three months for a longer period or years even, with the same staff, in the same club with the same kind of PA system, same acoustic environment and possibly same music with same dB output. Straight away we knew this will be a very complex research considering staff rotation, different kind of music played every time, number of punters in the club changing the acoustics of the room and so forth. Now for me this was a very good lesson and it has changed my approach to how researches are done and what one has to be wary of before engaging in any research. I’m definitely will not be researching on how club staff ears are being damaged regardless of them wearing protective foam ear plugs in my 3rd semester :).

Dr Davies went on to discuss the Epistemologies that we could try on our research. This is a broad subject and can take a long time to write about. I will just mention them for the benefit of those who will want to research and maybe, find out more on the subject.

Positivism This is normally an Objective approach resulting in Quantifiable Data which can be gathered through measurements for example by carrying out Listening tests on “subjects” or acoustic measurements.

Exploratory
This is normally a Subjective approach that result in gathering of Qualitative Data by Interviewing “Participants”.

Artistic
This is a Relativism approach normally based on Individual experience.

To end the lecture Dr Davies explained why it is important to focus on more methods of Data collection, simply because every method may present different and interesting results for example, surveys , interviews, test and measurement. A the end of the day the Research question normally will determine which kind of methodology to use