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Anonymisation and visual images: Issues of respect, 'voice' and protection

Wiles, Rose, Coffey, Amanda Jane ORCID:, Robinson, Judy and Heath, Sue 2012. Anonymisation and visual images: Issues of respect, 'voice' and protection. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 15 (1) , pp. 41-53. 10.1080/13645579.2011.564423

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A central ethical issue confronting researchers using visual methods is how to manage the use of identifiable images. Photographic and other visual materials can make the anonymisation of individuals problematic; at the same time many researchers, as well as research participants, view image manipulation as undesirable. Anonymisation is one of a range of ethical concerns that need consideration in relation to the use of identifiable images. Other concerns include the contexts in which images were produced and through which they may be consumed, the longevity of images in the public domain and the potential for future uses and secondary analysis of images. This paper explores some of the ways in which researchers specifically approach anonymisation in relation to visual methods, drawing on a qualitative study of ethical issues in visual research. Focus group discussions and interviews with researchers who use visual methods revealed the ongoing challenges of identification and anonymisation. While decisions about visual identification are inevitably complex and situated, our explorations revealed ongoing tensions between, on the one hand, research participants’ rights and researchers’ desire for participants to be seen as well as heard and, on the other hand, researchers’ real and perceived ethical responsibility to safeguard participants.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: visual methods; anonymisation; research ethics; participants’ rights; confidentiality
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 1364-5579
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 08:15

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