Why Is Ethics in Research Important?

I can use this photo without copyright because it's legal. From www.instagram.com/kimkardashian
I can use this photo without copyright because it’s legal. From http://www.instagram.com/kimkardashian

When I think of ethics, I think of morals, what is right and wrong. We are brought up to think that way since birth. There are differences though when talking about ethics in research. I would be pretty upset and violated knowing that someone may have stolen my data, information or images without my permission. There have been cases where this had happened via social media websites for example Facebook’s incident in 2012 where they used over 600,000 users information to conduct an experiment on emotional contagion, without the users knowledge (Romana, 2014).

Niranjala Weerakkody (2008), Media and Communications Academic, describes in her book the reasons for ethics in research studies and the importance of ethics clearances. Weerakkody states:

“Ethics clearance guarantees that a formal committee has reviewed your research design and data collection methods have made sure the proposed research project falls within current legal and administrative requirements and guidelines. It tries to eliminate any potential harm that may be caused to your research subjects during or after their participation in the project and addresses issues such as of informed consent, privacy, confidentiality, no harm to subjects and anonymity. Ethics guidelines also reduce the chances of individual researches or their employers facing future legal action related to the treatment of research participants or the conduct of the project and helps protect the organisations reputation”.

Without ethics in place in research, there would be many issues with not only the participants but also the conductors of the project. As Weerakkody stated, confidentiality and consent are main issues that need to be looked at when conducting research. If these guidelines aren’t followed, it can result in major legal issues.

An example of something I find totally unethical is Instagram. Have you ever read the terms and conditions of Instagram? Basically, Instagram or any other third-party can use your own photographs, which you have posted on your account, without consent. This means your image could be posted in a magazine, on TV or on a website and you have no control over it, let alone get paid for it. Imagine what this would mean for celebrities in particular. Although they are already famous, I find it so wrong that gossip magazines can take images off Instagram accounts and plaster them all over the front page. Usually they would be paid thousands of dollars for their image to be put in a magazine but publishers get it for free. If you wanted to take the issue further, you have to pay your own legal fees, as Instagram has nothing to do with it. It does make me wonder though, why don’t celebrities just delete Instagram if it’s such an issue. Either way, it is completely wrong!

Having ethics in place as a legal obligation for many researchers is great. It protects all parties involved and there is always an outline to look back at if there are any disputes. It protects peoples moral rights and obligations which makes those participants feel secure.

References:

Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi 2008, ‘Research ethics in media and communication’, in Research methods for media and communications, Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 73-91

Romana, Julia Jasmine Madrazo-Sta 2014, the legal and ethical issues behind Facebook’s massive psychological experiment, GMA News Online, viewed on 29th March 2015, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/368001/scitech/socialmedia/the-legal-and-ethical-issues-behind-facebook-s-massive-psychological-experiment

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Mythbusters Analysis

Research projects can be fun, which is kind of crazy to believe. They can come in the form of reality television e.g. Heston’s Feasts. There is something quite exciting about science research projects especially when they involve crazy experiments.

Mythbusters is another experimental research show. Each episode of the show is based on experiments about old myths hence the name. They try to test the myth and see if it’s true or false. The format of the show follows a quite basic research process each and every episode. Initially they start with a hypothesis, conduct some research and/or experiments and finally come to a conclusion. The episode I looked at was called “Penny Drop”. In this episode the Mythbusters tried to bust the age-old question of “if a penny drops from the top of the Empire State will it kill someone?” This is a hypothesis and theory that will be researched and tested. Preceding this hypothesis, an experiment takes place trying to prove the theory. This is a part of their methodology. Once the results are synthesised and carefully the evaluated, the boys can come to a final conclusion and their conclusion turned out to be that the “penny drop” statement is false and will not cause harm.

Next, I will go through the tutorial questions from our study of Heston’s Feast and put them into the context of Mythbusters. Firstly, as previously stated it is a research project and the elements to define this is the shows use of a research project process including a hypothesis, experiment and conclusion. The shows hosts, Adam and Jamie, are both special effects experts. They have worked on major Hollywood movies such as Star Wars and The Matrix. Whilst the hosts are experts in the special effects field, they are not qualified scientists. This makes me question the validity of the experiments and the credibility of the data. But next is where this can be justified. Edward and Melissa Burkley, psychologist academics at Oklahoma State University, conducted a research project (2009) into Mythbusters as a tool for teaching research methods in psychology. They showed 4 episodes of Mythbusters to young students. They found that in viewing the show, the students learnt more and were more enthused about the class and research.

“They found the clips to be an effective teaching aid that helped them understand the course material better. Students also indicated that the Mythbusters clips helped them apply course concepts to actual research studies. Furthermore, students found the clips to be enjoyable and highly recommended their use in our future research methods courses” (Burkley 2009)

This shows that possibly the intention of the show is for educational purposes and not to be critiqued by scientists. The show provides educational fun although may not be scientifically accurate. I must admit I find it is a better show for younger children to watch rather than watching something like Home and Away. This approach gives the show more commercial reach in its viewers, as it is not too difficult to understand.

Mythbusters is a perfect example of a media research show and can be easily dissected to show its individual research processes.

Reference:

Berkley, E & M 2009, ‘Mythbusters: A Tool for Teaching Research Methods in Psychology’, Teaching of Psychology, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 179-184.

Mythbusters “Penny Drop” October 17th 2003, YouTube, Beyond Productions PTY LTD for the Discovery Channel, San Fransisco CA, executive producer Peter Rees

Censorship and the Great Firewall of China

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Social media has become such an important part in our daily lives. We use it to keep in contact with one another and it allows us to have a voice to speak what we believe. While we may use it to keep in contact with our friends, family etc. we also unknowingly use it to keep in contact with the rest of the world. I know personally that my Instagram feed is contained of primarily international posts. One thing I have noticed though since researching this topic is that the amount of Chinese content I receive as very minimal, and this is why…

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) set up the Golden Shield project in Mainland China, also known as the Great Firewall of China. This basically meant that Mainland China had very limited access to Internet sites. All social media networks were censored and thus why the Chinese can’t use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The government wanted to make sure they had a hold on all information travelling in and out of China. As Facebook, Twitter etc. are American owned; the Chinese government couldn’t keep an eye on all conversations. There are many forbidden keywords and websites that are filtered by tens of thousands of employee’s everyday and then filtered again by sophisticated software (D’Jaen, 2008). Many subjects that have been censored are primarily related to the government and those specifically talking negatively about the government. Many search words have been blocked including ‘Tibet’, ‘Taiwan China’, ‘equality’, ‘democracy China’ and ‘freedom China’ (Zittrain and Edelman, 2003).

google-kw2
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/china/google-kw-chart.html

Because of all of this, China decided to create their own social media networks. QZone is the most popular social network site in China. It is a mix of blogging, watching videos, listening to music and sending photos. It has over 712 million users in total (Heggestuen, 2013). The second favourite platform is Weibo, which is like a mix of Facebook and Twitter. Whilst there is freedom in having their own social platforms they are still heavily regulated by the Chinese government (Riley, 2014). Those who wish to use Western social platforms are able to illegally access them by using proxy servers or virtual private networks (VPNs). Charlie Osborn (2015) of ZDNet says, “critics argue that online filtering is not only hampering the general public but is stifling the innovation needed to revive the Chinese economy”. The censorship of the Internet on the Chinese public is damaging their freedom of speech and human rights.

References:

D‘Jaen, M. D. 2008, ‘Breaching the Great Firewall of China: Congress Overreaches in Attacking Chinese Internet Censorship’, Seattle University Law Review, 31(2), 327, viewed on 21st March 2015,

Heggestuen, J 2013, Confused By China’s Social Networks? Here’s A Simple Infographic Showing Their US-Based Equivalents, Business Insider Australia, viewed on 21st March 2015, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/a-quick-guide-to-chinas-social-networks-2013-10>

Osborne, C 2015, China revamps Great Firewall, cracks down on social media, ZDNet, viewed on 21st March 2015, <http://www.zdnet.com/article/china-revamps-great-firewall-cracks-down-on-social-media/>

Zittrain, J, Edelman, B 2003, Empirical Analysis of Internet Filtering in China, Harvard University, viewed on the 21st March 2015, <http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/china/>Role

What is Media Research?

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http://web.gps.caltech.edu/~btian/images/research_2.gif

Initially I found the question “what is media research?” to be quite straightforward. Originally I thought it was just that, researching media. I also found the question to not be just vague but quite ambiguous in a sense that it could be interpreted in many different ways. After searching through readings and online articles I found it to be more than just that.

Berger (2014) exclaims that we are ALWAYS researching even if we don’t realise it. Ever wanted to buy a new car? I bet you did some research on what was the best. Ever needed to buy a new phone? I’m sure you searched to find out what suited your needs. This is all research but we may not recognise it. There is though the difference between every day research and scholarly research. Berger (2014) describes scholarly research as being “more systematic, more objective, more careful and more concerned about correctness and truthfulness”. There is an extensive process to scholarly research and the process goes as follows (McCutcheon, 2015):

  1. Observation
  2. Data gathering
  3. Theory
  4. Hypothesis
  5. Further data gathering
  6. Data analysis
  7. Deduction

When talking in terms of media research, this category encompasses numerous subjects, as the field is extraordinarily wide and multidisciplinary (McCutcheon, 2015). These subjects range from hip-hop to art film to reality TV to comics. Media research is usually looked at in terms of qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data is data that can’t be measured. It looks at aspects of texts including its properties, degree of excellence and distinguishing characteristics (Berger, 2014). Quantitative on the other hand looks at numbers and measurements although this type of research can be narrow, as many literary texts cannot be counted.

The media topic I am most interested in is music. Music is something I am passionate about and therefore find interesting to research. I think this could be a great media outlet to talk about and research as there are many websites dedicated to music knowledge, reviews and news. Music articles are great to look at in terms of researching qualitative and quantitative data e.g. one may count the success of an album to be in its album sales (quantitative) or one may count the albums success to be through its lyrics and sound (qualitative). Another topic that I would be interested in looking at is documentaries such as those from Louis Theroux. These short documentaries show clear evidence of primary research and generally have the layout of how the research process takes place, starting with a hypothesis and coming to a conclusion. Other TV shows such as Myth busters would be a great to look at. It shows a great deal of research throughout and there is also the clear presence of the research process, alike to Theroux’s documentaries.

Who knows, I may change my mind on what I find interesting to research. But for now, wish me luck.

References:

Berger, A 2014, ‘What is research?’, Media and communication research methods : an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, 3rd ed., SAGE, Los Angeles, pp. 13-32.

McCutcheon, M 2015, ‘Lecture 2: What is media research?’ PowerPoint slides, BCM210, University of Wollongong, 11th March 2015