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Please Turn Off Your Phone

Do Not Use Mobile Phones

(via, store-safe.com)

A sign like the one above is displayed in the waiting room of my local medical centre. I ignored it, and so did three others, but its presence disturbed me. What did they not want us doing on our phones? It’s complicated when multi-utility devices are ubiquitous, to prohibit one function you have to prohibit the whole device. This sign was designed when phones looked like cell phones, and its current purpose is just as outdated.

Does the control of technology in a space regulate how private or public it is? My local gym has signs displayed on and around the change rooms prohibiting: CAMERAS AND PHONES. The same response could justify the underlining negativity surrounding Google’s eyewear Google Glass. It’s possible that the introduction of user enabled technology redefines the privacy of a public space into an immediate private space. While it’s still a public area, it becomes unethical for a researcher to not disclose themselves in this context.

You could define all of online space as “public”, because there is minimal control to define a virtual space as private. Therefore, a researcher would never have to disclose themselves in a virtual online space, right?  But what if a virtual house in a virtual world displayed a “Stay Out” sign, but you could simply move like a ghost through the sign without the owner knowing. So, what are the ethics of conducting research in an online virtual space? Rosenberg (2010 ‘Virtual World Research Ethics and the Private/Public Distinction’), International Journal of Internet Research, vol. 3.

“In  online  contexts,  the  boundaries  between  private  and  public  appear  blurred.  This  makes  it  difficult  for  researchers  to  assess  the  sensitivity  of  information  and  situations,  It  also  makes  it  difficult  to  determine  when  research  requires  informed consent.”Rosenberg 2010, p. 2

“Lack of privacy is a recurring problem.” … “A “newbie” shows up at your house naked, simply wandering around, asking for directions to sex sites or interrupting private conversations.” … “Though there may be a desire for privacy in virtual worlds, there is no actual private space in Second Life since the technical interface does not allow it.”Rosenberg 2010, p. 7

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