Module 10: The Labour and Ethics of Crip Making
10.4 Ethical Research
Vulnerability & Risk
Surveillance. Harassment. Symbolic violence. Copyright and ownership. The digital sphere—and the Internet—are not and have never been safe spaces. How, then, do we navigate the risks we take as users, learners, and researchers, and the risks that exist for our research subjects? Let the following questions guide your engagement with digital ethics:
- In what ways does digital storytelling and labour open us up to harm?
- How does the use of social media potentially harm the communities we write about?
- Are there ways to mitigate this risk?
- Who owns our work?
- How do we protect ourselves and our communities while doing digital work?
- How might performing digital labour harm our own bodyminds?
Consider the different ethical issues that arise from sharing your work on different digital platforms. The chart below breaks down some of the questions you may consider when you use or share your work with each platforms.
Ethical Questions & Potential Problems
||If I create a Twitter account, do I make it open (to reach more people), or closed (to prevent trolling and online harassment)?|
||If I create a Instagram account, do I make it open (to reach more people), or closed (to prevent trolling and online harassment)? Do my image descriptions reinforce or resist dominant and limited views of the world?|
||If I share pictures on Facebook, does Facebook have the right to use them? How do I protect my copyright?|
|What if the host institution webpage does not have adequate access options? (e.g your university or college’s webpage)|
|How much does it cost to own and run a website?
What happens if the app/program I’m using crashes or becomes obsolete?
Online academic journal
|If I publish in an academic journal, who will and will not be able to access my work? How much does a subscription to a journal cost?|
Accountability & Community
As disabled or non-disabled scholars, we are not only accountable to ourselves for the research we do and the materials we produce. We are accountable to the communities that we write about, to the many people living under oppression and with pain. Remember the discussion in module 7 around representation and consent in video making, or how the makers in each maker spotlight describe their work and community.
When you do your work, ask yourself:
- How will other disabled readers view this?
- How might they feel?
- Am I representing a range of experiences outside of my own, or am I only writing about what it’s like to be a disabled white settler?
- If I am discussing experiences that are not my own, what accounts and research am I drawing on?
- Is it a respectful and accurate representation?
- If my work will make someone vulnerable to harm, have I anonymized them effectively?
- Most importantly, if I am writing about fan fiction, or a private Instagram account, have I obtained permission from the creator to use their work?
In one of the assigned readings for this week, Moya Bailey reminds us that sharing our or other people’s stories online can be dangerous. In her work with Black trans women in digital spaces, Bailey explains that “acts of violence also coincide with increasing visibility and advocacy by trans women of color, particularly through digital media outlets and in online media” (7). Thus, in reflecting on her own research practice, Bailey writes that “Given the frequent attacks on trans women, particularly trans women of color, I wanted to be sure that my scholarly inquiries about the hashtag were welcome and did not bring undue negative attention to the community” (14). Ultimately, Bailey’s research on trans hashtag activism was based on non-hierarchical collaboration with the community she wanted to support, rather than stealing or appropriating their data and images. Another question Bailey raises in her article is that of remuneration: how do we compensate research participants for their time and energy? (25).
Consent. Accountability. Risk. Visibility. Vulnerability. Compensation. These are some of the topics and ethical questions we grapple with as digital scholars.
Part of accountability is also attending to the audience of your research project, and how they might encounter your work or even be harmed by it. When creating projects to share with an audience, ask yourself:
- Who will be reading/playing/watching this work?
- Who might be harmed by my work?
- Am I using trigger warnings and key words? Are there some images or descriptions I decided to cut out because they might be triggering?
- Have I listed the accessible features?
- Have I ensured there is no strobing, and that the piece is an accessible as I can make it at this point in my journey as a digital media maker?
- Write down your ideal audience for your project.
- Write down your actual audience.
- List who might be interested in your work.
Next, ask yourself: how can I create a caring, accessible experience for this diverse group of people?
Eli Clare tells us that “Trigger warnings are in essence tools for self-care and collective care.” In his own trigger warning for the book Brilliant Imperfection, he tells the reader:
“You can stop listening to or reading this book. You can read it fast or slow. You can read it out loud with your sister, partner, neighbor across the street. You can yell, type, breathe. Sign, sing, drink tea. Connect with your dog, cat, hamster, favorite tree. Call, text, Skype, Facebook, FaceTime with your friends. Lie in bed, roll, walk, dance, run.” (xx).
Next, we are going to create trigger warnings for the digital work you’ve completed in this course as a way of creating access and demonstrating care for our audience. Follow the instructions below.
- Create a list of content warnings or trigger warnings for your work, listing specific topics that you think might be triggering or emotionally challenging to engage with.
- Expand these warnings to communicate if the topic is
- mentioned briefly in passing
- explored in-depth
- uses graphic description or visuals.
- Note what page number, slide number, or time stamp (for videos and podcasts) these triggers appear on.
- Create a broader list of key words that tell the reader/viewer what topics will appear.
- Create your own version of Eli Clare’s invitation to “stop listening to or reading this book.” Write a few sentences instructing the viewer/reader/listener on how they can engage with (or disengage from) your project. What care tactics would you recommend? How might they be accessing this material? Does your narrative need to be encountered linearly? Can readers skip parts?
Consider appending some or all of these trigger warnings and instructions to your final project.