Let’s Get Ethical, Ethical ♫

Considering the four literacies ethics, privacy, copyright, and licenses that were discussed during our class on September 7th, it was shown that they all play an equal role in the research being conducted by future and current scholars. These literacies affect your research and scholarship as either a historian/scholar by defining the guidelines of what information you are legally and morally allowed to publish and/or obtain. 

Through ethics, you need to be aware of normative, alternative, and harmful potentialities. Will your research cause psychological, physical, legal, or social harm to the subjects being researched? Being aware of ethics of care and understanding the risk-benefit analysis must be prevalent. It is imperative that researchers are granted consent before furthering their research in order for their project to be considered ethical. 

Another literacy is privacy; privacy is important to prevent public disclosure of impermissible facts, defamation of character, or appropriation of logos or names. A surprising fact I was not aware of when it came to privacy law was that your project may proceed if the subject matter of the collections is no longer living. Whether that was common knowledge or not, I genuinely never thought about it despite it making complete sense. How can a dead person give consent? It leads me to question research regarding Egyptian history and the mummies involved. Who grants archeologists consent to unravel the remains of people who were once actual living people with families, memories, and an entire history– only to be picked apart for scientific research purposes? 

Under copyright laws, the content in which researchers are allowed to use is defined by strict guidelines. Copyright affects your research in the way that plagiarizing carries heavy consequences and it is important to understand the copyright and license depending on the project being worked on. However, you are not legally able to copyright facts. This allows researchers to further their studies without copyright laws preventing them from publishing their own findings and hypotheses. An interesting fact about copyright laws that I learned from our meeting was that a person is unable to be hit with a copyright strike when it is anything from the government.  

In order to avoid copyright laws, the last literacy to follow is licensing. Licenses simply come down to being a contract not to sue. It allows historians and scholars the ability to use the information to further their research without fearing backlash and possible legal repercussions under fair use. 

Important considerations to think about before beginning a digital humanities project are: Is the information being obtained ethically (for example; has consent been given prior to starting the project)? Some strategies to account for ethics can be consulting journal publications, imposing access controls, and/or developing best local practices.

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