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Ethics Working Committee Draft. Do Not Distribute. For Review Only.

Definitions

Permalink for this paragraph 0 The Internet is a social phenomenon, a tool, and also a (field) site for research. Depending on the role the Internet plays in the research project or how it is conceptualized by the researcher, different epistemological, logistical and ethical considerations will come into play.  The term “Internet” originally described a network of computers that made possible the decentralized transmission of information.  Now, the term serves as an umbrella for innumerable technologies, devices, capacities, uses, and social spaces.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Because the types of interaction and information transmission made possible by the Internet vary so widely, researchers find it necessary to define the concept more narrowly within individual studies. This is complicated by the fact that the studies of and on the Internet cut across all academic disciplines. There is no single set of methodological or theoretical guidelines that can be assumed to hold universally.

Permalink for this paragraph 3 This document uses the following working definition:  Internet research encompasses inquiry that (a) utilizes the Internet to collect data or information, e.g., through online interviews, surveys, archiving, or automated means of data scraping; (b) studies how people use the Internet, e.g., through collecting and observing activities or participating on listservs, web sites, blogs, social network sites, gaming, or other online environments or contexts; and/or (c) utilizes datasets, databanks, repositories available via the Internet. Internet research is not machine specific or dependent, and we recognize the impact of smart devices, cellular, and space-less Internet activities.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 It is important to note that definitions of and experiences with these contexts vary widely. Also, technological convergence merges many of these categories in evolving and sometimes surprising ways.  The Internet mediates everyday life in industrialized cultures, whether or not we are actively using a “browser” on a computer. Thus, Internet research should be considered in its broadest sense.

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