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Ethics for Digital Projects and Research

This discussion-based workshop will address an array of ethical questions and concerns for folks doing digital projects or research with an emphasis on consent, personhood, confidentiality, political economy, the politics of knowledge production, and accessibility. In addressing these issues, this workshop will first provide a general overview of ethics for institutional research compliance—including the Belmont Report and Institutional Review Board—and then delve into an array of ethical issues that extend beyond institutional rules.

The approach of this workshop is premised on the understanding that there is no simple roadmap for practicing 'good ethics' and, indeed, what constitutes 'good' or 'ethical' for one individual may vary from the next and is often reflective of a scholar's political commitments and personal background. Nonetheless, this workshop will foreground key ethical questions to ask (and keep asking!) when designing and doing digital projects or digital research, and key concepts to draw upon when thinking through these questions.

By the end of this workshop, participants will:

  • Understand ethical practices to satisfy institutional needs (IRB) when working with "human subjects";
  • Learn specific ethical questions and levels of impact to consider when doing various forms of digital research and using digital tools, including: (1) direct impacts on people through data collection; (2) the politics of knowledge production and categorization; and (3) social, political, and economic impacts of projects or research (drawing from Markham 2016 in Resources);
  • Critically consider questions of accessibility and openness, for people of varying (dis)abilities, and depending on people's language fluencies, access to technology and speedy internet, and geo-political location in the world;
  • Engage with alternative approaches and case examples; and
  • Envision the ethics of their own projects and methodologies.

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Institutional Ethics
Belmont Report
Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Ethics Beyond Compliance
Levels of Impact
Level of Impact #1: Direct Impacts on People through Data Collection
Level of Impact #1 cont.
Level of Impact #2: Politics of Knowledge Production and Categorization
Level of Impact #2 cont.
Level of Impact #3: Social, Political, and Economic Impacts of Projects or Research
Range of Impact
Additional Case Examples

Session Leader: Kelsey Chatlosh
Based on previous work by Kelsey Chatlosh

Creative Commons License

Digital Research Institute (DRI) Curriculum by Graduate Center Digital Initiatives is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at When sharing this material or derivative works, preserve this paragraph, changing only the title of the derivative work, or provide comparable attribution.


@DHRI-Curriculum Session on ethics, including questions of compliance, consent, openness, accessibility, and equality.







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