Ethical problems in virtual research: enmeshing the blurriness with Twitter data

Kerry Power

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


When conceptualising knowledge gained from tapping into an internet data pool, one may question many things which can include the role of the researcher and the researched, privacy and ethics, intention, authenticity and the vastness of scope. The researcher, regardless of research intention including moral or ethical positions, must acknowledge that there are billions of nuances affecting online user participation. Ethical boundaries surrounding available data deemed ‘public’ in a program like Twitter, for example, are not easily wrapped in a terms of service agreement. Ethical problems in virtual research are expansive, and it is necessary to frame how and why researchers should address them. In the following paper, I outline some significant ethical issues in virtual research and address perceived pluralities as enmeshment. Drawing on Barad's (2007, 2010, 2014) theoretical model of diffraction, I poke holes through ethical blurriness and think through ethical possibilities for researchers, including online presence, data collection practices and participant agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-207
Number of pages12
JournalE-Learning and Digital Media
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Virtual research
  • Twitter
  • Art education
  • diffraction
  • ethics

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