The view from somewhere
Critically reflexive recruitment heuristics for big data
Keywords:research methods, research ethics, big data, digital humanities, feminist
Recent scholarship has raised important critical questions about the ethical uses of big data scraped from social media platforms. Critical and feminist researchers have argued that big data can naturalize a “view from nowhere,” which ultimately reinscribes the status quo. In response, researchers have sought to incorporate critical reflexivity into their big data research and to include participants in their research through surveys and interviews. With surveys and interviews, researchers must engage in critically reflexive recruitment practices though, as reaching out to participants always reveals a “view from somewhere” that can (but does not always) function in the milieu of the dominant gaze. This article builds on scholarship that calls for more ethical data practices by offering three heuristics for critical reflexive recruitment practices. First, researchers should consider whether to recruit participants based on shifting boundaries of publicity and privacy. They should evaluate if posts were meant for their particular “view from somewhere.” Second, researchers should assess the names of research accounts, and how the names might be experienced as extractive. Finally, researchers should critically reflect on channels of recruitment and how those channels function in public/private binaries.
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