Last post – Interview

For this week’s final blog task we were asked to conduct a short interview that may aid us in the next assignment, which involves doing research on a particular subject with surveys and interviews. My group chose to research the ways in which culture can impact on reporting on war and terrorism. Due to time restrictions I decided to interview my brother, who is a high school student in year 10 to see what sort of answers he would formulate, based on the types of war reporting that he’s been exposed to.

Aiyana: When you see graphic news stories on war and terrorism, how do you react?

Zac: I feel like our generation has been exposed to many images like this for some time now, particularly since the rise of ISIS and the terror they’ve caused with numerous beheadings and attacks. For me personally, I’m no longer shocked by these images of suffering and terror because I’ve been exposed to violent PS4 games and what not so I don’t get upset or feel sick, I do however feel a sense of gratitude that I’m fortunate enough to have been born in Australia where this is not the norm.

A: Do you think we’ve become increasingly desensitsed to images of war and terrorism?

Z: In a sense yes, we’re shown war documentaries in History class, we watch violent movies and images of terror and war are all over the Internet. The graphic footage shown is becoming more and more available to us because of the internet and war journalists are pushing the envelope in terms of how much graphic material they publish as shock tactics.

A: Did you watch the video of James Foley’s execution? How did you respond to the different reports and articles on this event?

Z: I chose not to watch it because I’m sure it would’ve haunted me for some time but some of my friends did and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I thought it was pretty rough how the photo of his last moments with a knife against his throat was splashed across newspapers around the world I thought that was really tacky and disrespectful towards his family’s wishes to not publish the photos.

A: How do you see these types of reporting changing or evolving in the future? Do you think anything will change?

Z: I don’t think it’ll get any better, if anything I think journalists will start to find ways of getting more up close views of war and conflict, risking their lives even more than they already do in order to get the stories and stay ahead of the pack.

Whilst this was quite a brief interview, I feel like these questions can be integrated into our own research questions for the next assignment.

Why are research ethics important? A case study on Facebook’s shady research techniques.

 

“Ethical research ensures the researcher is ‘doing the right thing’ by the project, its participants and society at large.”(Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi, 2008.)

When conducting any form of research, it is always important to maintain a strong moral compass and operate in an ethical manner in order to prevent any public media altercations or face legality issues. Ethical research involves the researcher conducting research in a proper and moral way, to ensure that all participants involved feel secure and with confidentiality. To ensure that researchers are conducting ethical research there are several guidelines set in place by Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)(Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi, 2008.) The researcher must always keep in mind that fact that different individuals will hold different ideals and expectations when it comes to what is acceptable to ask and expect of these research participants/subjects in order to operate and conduct research in an idyllic environment to achieve the best results.

I’ve chosen a research ethics case study which is well-suited to the media and communications subject to focus on; in 2014 Facebook conducted an “Emotional Manipulation Study” on its users (689,003 people) without them knowing or consenting to be watched by the media monopoly. This outraged users of the social media site and raised several concerns over the privacy of users, as the research was then published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, leaving questions being asked of how Facebook carries out such research on its users without their consent.

By doing so, Facebook clearly breached confidentiality guidelines from the Research Ethics Committee of its users by unethically carrying out this study without any warning. In his article on the topic, David Hunter rightly points out that Facebook has indeed conducted their study without any consent at all from its users. Although it was argued that the study was conducted under the Common Rule which: “requires oversight by a research ethics committee and adherence with common practices regarding informed consent only if a study receives federal funding or is associated with an institution receiving federal funding.”(Hunter, 2014) But after extensive research, it was found that “ clauses regarding research were only added to this policy four months after the experiment took place.”(Hunter, 2014), deeming the study undertaken by Facebook to be seemingly less ethical than users were assured it was.

Looking back on the ethics involved in conducting research, it is clear that Facebook certainly did not conduct their user-generated research in a way that can be seen as right or ethical; instead, they deceived their users and gathered the personal information of 689,003 of its users without them having any idea they were being watched. If we return to the journal article “Research ethics in media and communication”, the case of the unethical Facebook research study, its participants can be seen as involuntary participants in an unequal power relation between the researchers (Facebook) and the participants (the users). This journal article states that: “research seeks personal information, such as demographic details… which not all participants are willing to divulge.” (Weerakkody, Niranjala, Damayanthi, 2008.) This statement raises questions as to why Facebook would assume they could obtain personal information from its users without their consent.

I’d like to finish with a quote from David Hunter’s article, which I feel summates the constant difficulties associated with ethics in research:

“The history of research ethics has shown us, unfortunately, that if we want research participants to be treated with respect – and research to be conducted in line with ethical principles – then we ought to regulate research with review by an independent research ethics committee.”(Hunter, 2014)

Thanks for reading 🙂

Sources:

Photos, ethics and the law.

This week’s blog task was to analyse or give a critique on a text, which contained research of some description. Being the uninventive Uni student that I am I chose a reading from week 3: Chapter 10 of the book “Using photographs in social and historical research”, “Ethical and Legal issues” by University of Manchester Lecturer and Sociology expert, Professor Penny Tinkler. After reading the chapter over a few times the first thing made clear to me was the purpose of the chapter; to inform the reader of the several legal and ethical issues associated with using photographs in research.

After researching the author’s personal context I then had an understanding of the author’s purpose and intentions of writing the book in the first place. The initial paragraphs of the chapter explain the common need for “researchers and research participants to generate photos in the course of research” and Tinkler then goes on to explain the ethical and legal issues surrounding researchers generating photos. The chapter is structured with the use of subheadings to break up the information being conveyed which allowed me to comprehend what Tinkler was saying and I developed a greater understanding of the topic overall. I found this structure to be more engaging and simpler to read.

An interesting technique used in this chapter is the addition of summaries at the end of the first two sub-topics, which I found very useful to my own analysis of the information. The body of the chapter continues with detailed examples of the different instances of photos being used for research with possible legal and ethical implications. Tinkler has used sources from journal articles including some of her own work throughout the chapter to back up her statements with this well-researched evidence, enhancing the quality of her argument on the whole. The chapter ends with asummary of the author’s arguments that have been mentioned earlier.

Overall, this chapter presents a well-researched, structured presentation on the legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of photographs in social and historical research. With the use of subheadings, the author clearly presents her argument in an engaging and formal tone to draw her reader’s attention to the point she is trying to make. The author’s context and background in Ethics and sociology allows us as the readers to develop a deeper understanding of her motivation to present this chapter. The author’s position on the topic is clearly conveyed throughout the chapter with references to journal articles to back up her statements.

References:  Tinkler, Penny 2013, ‘Ethical issues and legalities’, in Using photographs in social and historical research, SAGE, London, pp. 195-208

Hello Again!

 

Well I’m back again, and for the beginning of this 5 part blog series in my Research Practices in Media and Communication Course, we’ve been asked to look at Media Research in general and the concept of research itself. We as everyday citizens and University students are exposed to and ourselves undertake in research almost everyday. This is due to the fact that the basis of all research is simply asking a question. When reflecting on my usual day at Uni, there will be several instances where research is necessary to complete a certain task. For example, after a very long summer break over the Christmas holidays I had naturally forgotten where most of the buildings at UOW were (embarrassing, I know) so in order to find out where the buildings where for my lectures and tutorials I simply opened the Lost on Campus application on my phone, looked up the building numbers and found where they were on the campus map. This may seem like an over simplified version of what research is but it’s a good example of how we as students are researching and finding out new information everyday. This research can range from small-scale topics such as my example mentioned to scholarly research through the UOW Library’s databases such as Summon to find journal articles for assignments. This type of research however, is highly systematic and objective with less emphasis on statistical data that can be associated with quantitative research.

So return to the original question “what is media research” it is important to distinguish between the two types of research methods in media and communications research: quantitative and qualitative.

When referring to quantitative research, this is the type that involves the “numbers, magnitude and measurement.”(Berger,2014) of media research. Quantitative research counts data, processes that data collected and describes and derives a theory form the evidence in order to analyse it. An example of quantitative research in the modern media landscape is the role of the media research company Neilson who released a report/review on the Australian online landscape, which provided a detailed analysis of statistical data collected by the company from the month of August in 2014.

Looking at qualitative research we can see that the word “quality” hides in it’s name, suggesting that this type of research will involve evaluation of a certain text in the media, judging the text’s distinguishing characteristics and degree of excellence.(Berger, 2014)

Theory aside, now its time for me to tell you which aspects of the media that I would like to research during this course in order to further my understanding of the media research topic itself.

As a conscious member of this vast online media landscape, and as a result of the influence of other media subjects I’ve studied at UOW, I have developed a growing interest in the ethics of reporting human suffering, and ethics in reporting in general. A particular case that has interested me is that of the media coverage of the execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIS. This may be the inner budding journalist in me talking but I’m the opinions of others on the crude and disrespectful manner that several newspapers both online and print publicised the pictures and close-ups of Foley’s execution on their publications for the world to see. Not to go too in depth into this topic but I would be very interested to research A. Differing opinions/reactions to this topic and B. the ethics involved in publishing these pictures against the wishes of James Foley’s grieving family. Of course there are other interesting aspects of reporting in an ethical manner.

That’s just a taste of what’s to come. Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

 

NB: all sources used have been hyperlinked throughout the post.