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Thursday, June 8 • 1:30pm - 1:50pm
Citational Politics and Positionality: Analyzing Ethics of Social Media Research

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Given the relative newness of the discipline of Digital Humanities (DH), it is important to put the disciplinary research through a constant process of (re)imagining its goals and values, something that has been a task of researchers specifically working on decolonizing and anti-colonial DH, building anti-racist and feminist DH, envisioning Critical Caste and Technology Studies. (Shanmugavelan, n.d.; Patel, 2022; Morford et al., 2020) The thread that binds all of these works together is the importance of ethics and the questioning of power structures in and through DH. (Verhoeven, 2015; Risam, 2019) One way to understand the ethics of research in DH is to look at how the ethics of one type of research, social media research, is discussed. This paper will therefore present a systematic review of papers on social media research ethics that employed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic review and Meta-Analysis Protocol (PRISMA-P) 2020 (Page et al., 2021). We will address the following questions:
  • How do citational politics inform the discussion of research ethics in social media research?
  • How does positionality affect and make the ethical structure of a research?
  • Do scientific methods of research, such as the PRISMA protocol, have their own ethics problems? How can we reflect back on the method used?
Whilst the PRISMA protocol consists of a 27-item list to “facilitate the preparation and reporting of a robust protocol for the systematic review” (Moher et al., 2016, p. 148), we modified it to suit our research by creating ten variables, namely year of publication, inferred gender of the author(s), region of publication, academic discipline, type, design, methodology, social media platform of focus, positionality statement and ethical protocol.

We problematise the results thus generated through the PRISMA protocol by drawing on Sara Ahmed’s conceptualisation of citation as feminist bricks and feminist memory. (Ahmed, 2017) We use Ahmed’s theoretical framework on citation practices to unpack the “reproductive technologies” that scientific methods produce, determining the way the world (of social media research ethics, in our case) is “reproduced around certain bodies”. (Ahmed, 2013) We analyze the (lack of) positionality statements in the papers reviewed and the ethical implications of (not) engaging with “situated knowledges”. (Haraway, 1988)

Our findings show the need for reflective research praxis, one that is in alignment with the research objectives of jettisoning and exposing the power structures that dictate the making of the world in ways more than one. We found out that the majority of the papers that turn up in the PRISMA protocol belong to the Global North academia, denoting a need to examine the making of disciplines and knowledge production in disciplines across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. We conclude that positionality is of importance and should be added to the theoretical frameworks of anti-caste and social justice critiques of pedagogy and research. (Subramanian, 2019) We conclude by turning the lens inward by reflecting and rectifying our own research ethics and practices by doing an analysis of our citation patterns, while acknowledging the limitations of our project.

avatar for Ayushi Khemka

Ayushi Khemka

PhD Student, University of Alberta

Md. Sayeed Al-Zaman

University of Alberta, Canada

Thursday June 8, 2023 1:30pm - 1:50pm EDT
ARC E-13