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Ethics as Method: Reviewing dilemmas and choices in an age of data and automated decision making

What complicates our understanding of “ethical” research practice in contemporary contexts where automated systems play an agential role in what researchers are able to observe/collect? What individual or trained habits of method or disciplinary (infra)structures impact the researcher’s eventual construction of “what counts” as data? In this lecture, Professor Markham takes an ethnographically-oriented perspective to discuss key considerations for decision-making in digitally-saturated research contexts. Focusing on the researcher’s deliberate or habitual choices at critical junctures, as well as the various nonhuman processes that can also function to influence what is eventually considered as data or evidence, Markham offers a framework for working beyond regulatory ethical models to build reflexivity into research practice. Annette Markham is Professor of Media & Communication and Co-Director of DERC, the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University, and a Professor MSO (on leave) in Information Studies and Digital Design at Aarhus University, Denmark. Markham’s philosophical work focuses on how disrupting the vocabularies around method can facilitate more creative, adaptive, and ethical practice for social research. She is internationally recognized for developing epistemological frameworks for rethinking ethics and research methods for digitally-saturated social contexts and is co-editor of Internet Inquiry: Conversations about method (with Nancy Baym, 2009, Sage). Her ethnographic studies of digital identity formation are well represented in her pioneering book Life Online: Researching real experience in virtual space (1998, Alta Mira). Her more recent research focuses on how metaphors influence the shape and potential of the Internet (Metaphors of Internet, co-edited with Kat Tiidenberg, 2020, Peter Lang). Markham is founder and director of Creating Future Heritage, a five-year arts-based digital literacy initiative. She founded and has facilitated the annual Skagen Institute Workshops for fostering creative and transgressive methods, and is founder and director of the international Future Making Research Consortium, a network for contemplating methods and ethics for building better futures. Her work can be found at DiLCo (‘Digital language variation in context’) is a 3-year international research network initiated in 2021 at the University of Hamburg. The network brings together researchers from Europe and USA with expertise in computational, interactional, and ethnographic approaches to digital language and linguistics. It aims to provide a platform for the development of interdisciplinary ideas in digital language and communication research, and for early-career capacity building.
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