Module 1: Designing and conducting ethical and responsible research

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All academic research should be ethical and responsible. This module invites students to consider in detail how this underpins their PhD research, through expert insight on a range of topics. Students will learn how an ethics of design ethnography must be multivalent and consistently integrated in research processes.

All academic research should be ethical and responsible. This module invites students to consider in detail how this underpins their PhD research, through expert insight on a range of topics. Students will learn how an ethics of design ethnography must be multivalent and consistently integrated in research processes.

This module encourages students to consider ethics throughout their projects, rather than treating it as limited to a discrete university-endorsed predictive process before fieldwork begins. Instead, our approach in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab expands the institutional treatment of ethics to additionally treat ethical practice as always situated and developing continually as researchers engage with participants in each specific research setting. Our work must also be responsible in terms of its potential future impact.

The videos offer distinctive perspectives on ethical and responsible research, and are linked to readings that further explore the ideas discussed in the videos.

  • Yolande Strengers discusses how she accounts for gender and other forms of diversity in research related to technology design and energy consumption.
  • Kari Dahlgren considers the ethics of collaborating with unethical actors, based on her in-depth research into the Australian mining industry.
  • Larissa Nicholls draws on her extensive experience in both academic and industry research with practical tips for keeping safe when the field site is in other people’s homes.
  • Jathan Sadowski outlines some of the biases and inequalities designed into smart technologies, based on the arguments of his 2020 book Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling Our Lives, and Taking Over the World.

The reading list extends the discussion of ethics with a selection of articles by Sarah Pink (2013, 2017 and 2019) that offer a comprehensive overview of ethics in design ethnography based on her own extensive research. Her article with Debora Lanzeni (2018) considers the ethics of working with data, whereas Markham (2018) discusses an approach that specifically focuses on future impact.

Several important themes tie this module together. First, that design ethnographic research is a collaborative process that pulls researchers and research participants together in ways that must be negotiated and agreed transparently. Second, that ethics is ongoing, emergent and responsive to the unique relationalities and settings of each research project. And finally, that ethical and responsible research operates in a context of inherently uncertain futures, where the effects of research may reach far beyond the end of a given project.

Learning outcomes

  • Students will learn how an ethical and responsible research approach plays out in design ethnography in a wide range of ways.
  • You will also consider how to take care of yourself, research participants and other researchers during fieldwork.

Designing and conducting ethical and responsible research (parts 1-4)

Accounting for gender & diversity in research

Ethics in research from the Emerging Technologies Research Lab

The politics of HCI research

Safety and ethics of home-based interviewing

Reading list