I am excited to announce that the call for papers for the upcoming workshop on "Recent Ethical Challenges in Social Network Analysis" (RECSNA17) is now open. We welcome submissions of abstracts for paper presentations,
as well as expressions of interest to be panel discussants or session chairs.
Interdisciplinary research on social networks is experiencing unprecedented growth, fuelled by the consolidation of the field of social network analysis and the increasing availability of data from digital networking platforms. However, it raises formidable ethical issues that often fall outside existing regulations and guidelines. New tools to collect, treat, store personal data expose both research participants and practitioners to specific risks. Issues surrounding political instrumentalization or economic takeover of scientific results transcend standard research concerns. Legal and social ramifications of studies on personal ties and human networks surface at an unprecedented pace.
The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers in the social sciences, statistics, computer science, law and philosophy, as well as other stakeholders, to further advance the ethical reflection in the face of new research challenges.
Organization, dates, and venues
This two-day workshop is hosted by the MSH (Maison des Sciences de l'Homme) Paris Saclay (*) and organized by the Social Network Analysis Group of British Sociological Association (BSA-SNAG), in collaboration with: the European Network on Digital Labor (ENDL) and the Social Networks group of the French Sociological Association (AFS RT 26 – Réseaux Sociaux).
(*) Financial support from the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris-Saclay is gratefully acknowledged.
The workshop will take place in Paris on Tue. 5 and Wed. 6 December 2017. The venues are:
The study of social networks long predates the advent of the Internet. Since the 1930s, sociologists have used surveys to detect relationships between individuals and groups, for example advice between employees of a company, or friendship between pupils in a school class. In all these cases, there are ethical issues regarding informed consent (as relationships reported by participants may concern non-participants, possibly unaware of the research) and anonymization (which cannot be achieved at the data collection stage, which must include personal identifiers, but only ex post).
While researchers have already engaged with these issues (notably with a special issue of the leading journal Social Networks, 2005), new challenges arise today with the increased availability of relational data from digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The boundaries between “public” and “private” spheres blur, platforms’ algorithms affect users’ behaviours in ways that are not always transparent to researchers, and information sources are often owned by commercial firms unwilling to share them. Issues surrounding the ownership and accessibility of personal data via proprietary apps and APIs are the center of huge controversies as well as of regulatory efforts such as the new European GDRP (General Data Protection Regulation). Paid “crowdsourcing” (recruiting people through platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk to perform tasks that may range from answering questionnaires to downloading their full online contact lists) enables researchers to produce extra data, but raises formidable issues in terms of contributors’ working conditions.
In short, the data do not speak for themselves, and we must consider the conditions of their use, production and extraction as well as the software architecture imposed by commercial platforms, scientific publishers, tool developers and institutions. Possible consequences include barriers to data access, inequalities between researchers (with a potential advantage for corporate R&D over publicly-funded research), and a general sense of uncertainty which may hamper otherwise beneficial social studies.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of themes:
The aim of this workshop is to offer a space for researchers in social network analysis to discuss these issues on the basis of reflective accounts of their experiences, in consultation with other stakeholders in research ethics committees, regulatory bodies, and businesses.
We invite scholars and other professionals to submit papers that critically engage with ethics in research related to social networks, preferably on the basis of one or more case studies (which may be problems they encountered in their own research activity), taken as concrete illustrations of the general principles at stake, the attitudes and behaviours of stakeholders, or the legal and institutional constraints.
We are particularly interested in novel, original answers to some unprecedented ethical challenges, or the need to re-interpret norms in ambiguous situations.
We welcome contributions from academics (at both senior and early-career levels, also including postgraduate research students) as well as researchers in corporate R&D services, business leaders, representatives of platform companies, policy-makers and members of research ethics committees.
We are open to diverse disciplinary backgrounds (such as the social sciences, economics, digital humanities, computer science, statistics, philosophy / ethics), research approaches (qualitative / quantitative) and empirical settings (online / face-to-face social networks).
The workshop welcomes the participation of stakeholders, general public, and non-presenting attendees, who can attend both days (5-6 December 2017: see below) or day 2 only (6 December 2017).
You may contact [log in to unmask] with questions about scholarly contributions to this conference.
José Luis Molina, Autonomous University of Barcelona, HyperEthics: A Critical Account
Bernie Hogan, Oxford Internet Institute, Privatising the personal network: Ethical challenges for social network site research
Antonio A. Casilli (Telecom ParisTech, FR), Alessio D’Angelo (Middlesex University, UK), Guillaume Favre (University of Toulouse Jean-Jaurès, FR), Bernie Hogan (Oxford Internet Institute, UK), Elise Penalva-Icher (University of Paris Dauphine, FR), Louise Ryan (University of Sheffield, UK), Paola Tubaro (CNRS, FR).
Email: [log in to unmask]
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