One of the exciting and also somewhat horrifying aspects of fall term is the sense of Looming Deadlines. At least in terms of muscle memory -- this is the first fall in, oh, 5 years that I've not been in the throes of stupid graduate school applications (I applied for MFA once, PhD twice and tried to jump ship to another school last year before changing my mind & digging in my heels at UO). So it's weird not to have letters of rec to worry about, though a handful of my friends are in job/fellowship-search mode, and are transferring their application nerves onto me. Oh what fun academics have. But I've also been keeping busy, oh yes -- am in the process of applying to, or thinking about applying to, a number of conferences, including the Digital Humanities Conference at Stanford, ICA in Boston and the Western States Folklore Association meeting in LA. All three have November 1 deadlines, which means I'm doing less of my own work than I'd like (although isn't that the story of our lives -- our work constantly gets in the way of our work). DHC and ICA have (fairly) similar calls for papers/panels, so I (along with two colleagues at UO and a postdoc at Microsoft) will be simultaneously submitting a panel proposal dealing with the public/private split online. My individual proposal is as follows:
"How to Cite a Memorial Page Troll: Privacy and Consent within Digital Ethnography"
This presentation will explore the public/private distinction in relation to digital ethnography. As a case study, I will consider work I have done on/with Facebook memorial page trolls, users who deliberately disrupt and deface pages and groups honoring the recently deceased. All one must do to gain access to trolls walls is send or accept a friend request, and all one must do to access the walls of various memorial pages is click the like button; using research criteria established by traditional (i.e. terrestrial) folkloristics, both the trolls walls and RIP pages/groups must be regarded as private spaces, thus requiring informed consent from all observed parties. That said, the act of liking a Facebook page is comparable to walking through the threshold of a coffee shop, undermining the notion that (ostensibly) restricted access guarantees privacy, or implies the expectation of similar. Furthermore, because trolls deliberately and assiduously insist on anonymity, consent as defined by university-specific Institutional Review Boards may not even be possible, calling into question the very category of human subject within a digital context. Though the theoretical and practical implications of these conceptual shifts are far-reaching, they remain largely unexplored; this paper will offer a novel methodological framework with which to (re)consider the slippage between public and private online.
I'm wondering two things: first, is anyone else sumbitting to either of these conferences, and if so, what kinds of papers/panels are you working on. Second, does anyone have any experiences (read: horror stories) with digital ethnography they'd like to share? This won't be for inclusion in my paper, I'm just curious...