Public versus Private

We all know when we post online, what we post stays forever, but do we consciously consider that when we post? I’m struggling with this question in relation to participation in community blog spaces, research and IRB approval. From my perspective, the blog i’m studying and presenting about at a conference is public space, with funding from advertisers, regular contributors who use their full names, and no terms and use policy about not studying the space. So I feel i’m engaging with the text as a textual critic, similar to a critic of novels or literature or film. I don’t need to write to the director of the movie I saw so I can write about the characters, I don’t need to ask permission from the writers of a TV show to engage in discussion about the choices they made for the character that I do or don’t agree with, so when I notice a gender bias in language in an open community blog space, do I need IRB approval. At what point am I conducting human studies research where a subject may be harmed by my conclusions? If I conclude that participants of the space engage in gendered use of language, how do I know I’m not harming self-identity with my conclusion? I don’t always feel I talk like a girl, and having that pointed out to me may influence self-perception, so where is harm online?I have 2 weeks to come up with some sort of answer about this. Hopefully my email to IRB will be fruitful…….

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