Category Archives: Week 5

Week 5 – Ethics

The main ethical concerns that I see being an issue for my research idea has to do with labour, as I would like to investigate the impact of increased programing in the library. For this to happen there has to be personnel available to take on the extra workload, but do to budget restrictions there may not be library staff available to do so. I was considering the use of volunteers in a professional capacity, using MLIS students on an internship or BEd students taking part in a non-school based practicum. I felt that they are two groups that would not only be able to excel organizing library programs. It would also mean that, unlike regular volunteers, that they would have a professional obligation to dedicate a defined amount of time working at the library while the quality of their work would be assessed by their school programs.


There are inherent problem  with this staffing idea, and the practices of the union for actual library staff. If volunteers are coming in to do work for free, are they infringing on the library works? In addition there is the question of  what defines what is considered paid library work, vs. volunteered work. Were this experiment to take place, library staff would be overseeing the programing while the volunteers would help facilitate it. Even with volunteers being placed in a subordinate position to regular staff, many issues remain.


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Ethical Dimensions of My Research Design

Prior to examining the ethical aspects that will influence the design of my proposed research interest, I must address the fact that my research question has evolved entirely through the process of composing this SSHRC Program of Study assignment. As previously mentioned, I was interested in exploring whether the lack of Young Adult multilingual materials in Canadian public libraries can be attributed to a lack of interest in these materials from bi-/multi-lingual immigrant youth. A wealth of literature was discovered concerning practices and policies around Multilingual Collections Development and the information-seeking behaviours of immigrants in the public library setting, yet the research was not fruitful for the purpose of my study on the information needs of newly immigrated bi-/multi-lingual teens. I therefore abandoned this research interest (for now) and sought to draw elements of this interest into a new realm involving immigrants, cultural heritage, information practices and the family photo album.

Being a first-generation Canadian living with immigrant parents, I have fostered a life-long fascination with the ways in which my family collects, organizes, and maintains photo albums. The photo albums in my household function as a documents containing a collection of information which negotiates our hybrid Polish-Canadian identity. Yet, the information practices involved in family photo albums varies according to the level of engagement or authority an individual has in the creation of family and cultural narratives within the albums themselves. Therefore, in my research thesis, I am interested in exploring how the family photo album functions as a tool for cultural heritage preservation in the Canadian immigrant household.

My research study will be conducted within the University of Toronto community, targeting households that are located within the Greater Toronto area for the purpose of access to participants. The subjects of this study will be first generation immigrant students and their parent(s) and/or relatives with whom they have shared a household with for the majority of their life. Since the human subjects of study will primarily be immigrants, I must consider all possible scenarios involving the levels of English language communication and comprehension. As Prof. Dean Sharpe highlighted in his presentation, the principle of welfare must be employed to ensure a level of respect towards human subjects at all levels of being. Language barriers fall under the social, and often mental, aspects of this principle. To eliminate perceived linguistic barriers, I have chosen to call upon University of Toronto students who are first-generation Canadians to be the first point of contact as participants in this study. Sharpe also mentioned that new chapters in qualitative research explicitly acknowledges the ongoing consent of individuals involved. According to the principles of autonomy, I must understand all participants in my research as free agents who have the right to opt out of this study at any point in time. Therefore, it will also be clearly outlined at the beginning of the participant recruitment process that the subject’s involvement in this study relies on whether his or her household members will provide future consent towards their involvement in this study. If any participating member within the family chooses to opt out of the research, then the case itself must be dismissed and all documentation produced will be destroyed for ethical reasons.

Olivia Wisniewski

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Ethical Research

There could possibly that my research about how open data released by Canadian municipal governments is used and/or organized by groups of citizens to create applications or objects intended for use by other citizens of their municipality would need to be reviewed by a research  ethics board.

I have been considering the option of interviewing the participants in hackathons, apps contests and/or members of the groups creating applications out of the open data. Hackathons are gatherings where people get together to use and analyze data for general information or to create something like an app from it. Apps contests are events, normally sponsored by the government, where people are encouraged to develop applications and/or visualizations from government open data.

Since my research questions are directly connected by how and why groups of people interact with open data, it would be useful to interview some participants. It seems to me that I would have to do a delegated ethics review because the risk associated with being interviewed is minimal since the questions would not be of a personal nature, nor would the interviewees have to discuss any sensitive information. Furthermore, the groups of people I would be interviewing are not a vulnerable group since they are adults participating in the use of open data. There aren’t really any research risks or possible identifiable harms. There also aren’t any physiological, emotional or social issues associated with it either.

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Research Ethics and information issues

When I begin to consider the research interest that I have been developing here I realize that it have everything to do with ethics.

I am looking at ways to take information that individuals or groups create online and preserve it for posterity. Many of these records are created by systems that users assume will protect them with a veil of anonymity (one group going so far as to call themselves Anonymous ), these same users go on to create, inspire, or join groups and movements that have had some serious and global consequences in recent years (Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring are just two of many). In some instances these groups/movements succeeded in bringing change, but even as the victor their actions have earned them grief. How can we blame these people for wanting to take down a blog, or delete a twitter account that could have been used in a legal battle against them?

But what if they are not actively taking down the material? What if, now that they have succeeded in their mission, the necessary supports to sustain a website fade away and eventually it is the hosting provider who takes a site down? In this instance would it be ethical for us to step in and preserve the site?

Then again, if most history survives by accident, do we not have an obligation to the future to try to actively preserve it?


Ben S

I did not really quote from any of this but I randomly remembered a couple of things and they led me to these while I was writing this post.

n.d. 2011 Egytian Revolution.

n.d. 2013 Egyptian coup detat.

Byrne, Janet. 20012. The Occupy Handbook. New York: Back Bay Books.

Kelly, Brian. 2012. “Investing in a Centralized Cybersecurtiy Infastructure: Why ‘Hacktivism’ can and should influence cybersecurity reform.” Boston University Law Review 92 (5): 1663-1710.

Olson, Parmy. 2012. We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonyous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency. New York: Little, Brown and Co.


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