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Giaxoglou, K. (2017). Reflections on internet research ethics from language-focused research on web-based mourning: revisiting the private/public distinction as a language ideology of differentiation. Applied Linguistics Review, 8(2/3), 229–250. Communication & Mass Media Complete. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2016-1037


The present article addresses ethical issues and tensions that have arisen in the context of language-focused research on web-based mourning. It renders explicit the process of ethical decision-making in research practice, illustrating key aspects of a process approach to research ethics, which calls for reflection on ethical issues as an integral and dynamic part of the project (Markham and Buchanan 2015. Ethical considerations in digital research contexts. In James Wright (ed.) Encyclopedia for Social & Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier Press. 606-613; Page et al. 2014. Researching Language and Social Media: A student guide. Oxon: Routledge). In addition, the article draws attention to some vexing ethical tensions raised in research practice and, in particular, to the uses of the terms private and public in research ethics frameworks and in discipline-specific discussions. Based on Gal's (2005. Language ideologies compared: metaphors of public/private. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15 (1): 23-38) semiotic investigation of the private/public opposition, it is shown how the two categories are used as a language ideology of differentiation that discursively contrasts spaces and forms of emotional communication. It is argued that such metaphorical uses of the terms limit their currency in internet research on language, mourning, and death online, which tends to feature the construction and staging of a public self in semi-public contexts. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of the issues raised in language-focused research on web-based mourning for research ethics as method (Markham 2004. Method as ethic, ethic as method. Journal of Information Ethics 15 (2): 37-55) and calls for the critical study of the key concepts that underlie research ethics stances as a key step in rethinking - or 'undoing' - ethics (Whiteman 2012. Undoing Ethics: Rethinking Practice in Online Research. London: Springer).