Ethics of Using Digital Media in Arts and Humanities Research Conference

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The Ethics of Using Digital Media in Arts and Humanities Research conference was held on 22nd February 2019 at the University of Manchester. Attended by postgraduate researchers, early-career professionals and senior lecturers from across the UK and Europe, the one-day event sought to interrogate ethical implications and considerations of using digital media in researching cultural heritage. Through a programme of invited speakers and hands-on workshops, the participants interrogated a wide range of challenges for academics and heritage professionals.

The first speaker was Arran Rees from the University of Leeds. A second year PhD student in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, Arran is looking into how collecting social media impacts the use of existing museum collections management standards. His presentation, titled 'Codes of Ethics, Due Diligence and Social Media: A critical reflection on the appropriateness of existing ethical frameworks for collecting social media content in museums,' examined the Museum Association and International Council of Museums' existing framework in the context of collecting social media data, including GIFs and memes.

Speaking second was Emily Oswald, Doctoral Research Fellow from the University of Oslo. Her presentation, 'When “Camilla” remembers on Facebook, do we need consent to study her comment? Ethical considerations for research about heritage on social media,' explored the usefulness of impact ethics for guiding decisions about heritage research with social media. Her research examined comments left on a municipal museum’s Facebook page and discussed the ethical considerations critical to the study.

L. Meghan Dennis' presentation, 'Archaeological Ethics in Digital and Immaterial Spaces of Play: Ethical Lessons from Digital Ethnography,' engaged with the subject of archaeogaming. Examining the ethics of archaeology in immaterial spaces - including games such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Tomb Raider - her presentation interrogated whether depictions of archaeologists in video-games impact player perceptions of archaeologists as scientists and contextualized the relationship between representations of archaeological practices in the real and virtual worlds.

After the coffee break was PhD student (and organiser of the conference) Maria Paula Arias with 'Big fish, small fish: A network approach to ethical research in digital museology.' The presentation addressed the January 2018 ‘takeover’ of Manchester Art Gallery by artist Sonia Boyce, in particular the vitriolic social media reaction to the removal of Waterhouse painting Hylas and the Nymphs, using actor-network theory as a theoretical and methodological framework.

Following was Harald Fredheim with 'Beyond ethics of convenience.' His presentation examined the role of university ethics boards and whether their primary concern is ethics or legality and liability, as well as questioning whether ethics checks exist to allow or restrict ethically dubious research.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Jenny Kidd from the University of Cardiff. Titled '"Being ethical" in digital research,' Dr Kidd's presentation addressed ethics as something that is performed, negotiated and contested in real time and its implications for the collection of digital data.

The final portion of the day was concerned with workshop sessions. In groups, participants addressed challenges and questions submitted prior to the conference, ranging from 'How do we approach modern historical images/film in cultural community projects when it is difficult to identify people, copyright or origin?' to 'Who owns authorship or copyright of social media data?'

The full conference programme is available to view here and the conference hashtag is linked here.