Ethical Reflexivity, Care, and Slippery Data: Lessons From Working With the Mass Observation Project

van Emmerik, Corine. 2023. Ethical Reflexivity, Care, and Slippery Data: Lessons From Working With the Mass Observation Project. Sociological Research Online, ISSN 1360-7804 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

As part of a research project on the lived and everyday temporal experiences of British people in the Covid-19 pandemic, a Mass Observation directive was commissioned that asked volunteers about their changing rhythms, feelings, and imagined futures. The responses were rich and raw. Some of these reflections, however, expressed a risk of harm that raised ethical issues that were not anticipated beforehand. These issues were complicated by the interstitial character of the data, being not primary and not quite secondary. This Sociology in Action paper reflects on one diary that expressed risk of harm to think through the slipperiness of the data as well as the ethical responsibility researchers have towards the well-being of participants and that of their own. I suggest a proactive ethical framework for such interstitial data that includes an ethics of care towards the participants and stimulates ethical reflexivity that prepares the researcher for potential emotional ties and investments.

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This work was supported by the British Academy under Grant SRG2021\211073.


COVID-19, ethics of care, mass observation, methodology, secondary data analysis

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28 February 2023Accepted
13 July 2023Published Online

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Date Deposited:

24 Jul 2023 08:30

Last Modified:

24 Jul 2023 08:30

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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