Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Tag, You're It!" - an ethical dilemma?

I was tagged by fellow e-religion researcher Louise Connelly to reveal 8 things about myself. Then I get to tag 8 others. Then someone somewhere someday will follow this meme and say something interesting about it.

But this throws up interesting issues for a research blog like Open Source Research.

For example, Heidi Campbell was tagged by John La Grou on her research blog, When Religion Meets New Media, but chose to respond on her personal blog, Long Way From Auld Reekie, so as to keep her research and personal blogs separate. I don't have this option, as I don't have a personal blog and don't intend to start one - I'm wasting enough research time on Facebook!!!

I then thought I'd ignore it - but I worried that might be misinterpreted. I worry a lot!

So then I thought I'd play. I even went so far as drafting a post concerning 8 things about me. It was witty. It was quirky. It was everything a post like it should be - i.e. ultimately uninteresting to everyone save (perhaps) the unknown someone who might someday say something interesting (perhaps) about memes and the blogosphere.

But I'm not going to post it. It threw up several ethical issues which were unlikely to come up were I not exploring blogging as a research methodology! There might be parallels in more conventional research methods, but I haven't gone so far as to try and find them yet.

The problem arose when I started to think about who I could tag next. As this is a research blog, it's not read by my friends, and I don't have friends who blog, anyway. As I'm interested in blogging as both a research site and a research tool, I have a different relationship with the blogs which I do read. I went as far as hyperlinking to their blogs: bloggers in the emerging conversation between Christianity and contemporary culture, and researchers of blogging and media studies, etc. And then I realised that what I was doing constituted not only being a linkwhore, hoping that they would track my link and either a) participate in my research, or b) inform me of opportunities for conferences, journals, edited collections, etc; but was also quite manipulative and unethical.

I'm going to reflect more on this and other experiences of keeping a research blog in a chapter for the forthcoming Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age.

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