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Session Overview
Roundtable-04: Coping with Traumatic Research Topics in Internet Research
Thursday, 03/Oct/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Daisy Pignetti
Location: P419
(cap. 100 - fixed seating) NB. 'Forum'

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Coping with Traumatic Research Topics in Internet Research

Daisy Pignetti1, Liza Potts2, Axel Bruns3, Yonaira Rivera4, Carlos Rodríguez-Díaz5

1University of Wisconsin-Stout, United States of America; 2Michigan State University, United States of America; 3Queensland University of Technology, Australia; 4Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States of America; 5George Washington University, United States of America

As researchers focused on digital communication relating to traumatic events such as acts of terrorism, school shootings, and natural disasters, we have repeatedly and willingly dealt with “not safe for life” materials in the course of completing projects. Through our work to trace, track, and analyze these events, not only have we viewed unthinkable images and news reports, we have also asked already vulnerable populations—victims, survivors, and first responders—to recount difficult moments. While news reporters have resources such as the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, academics carry with them similar traumas without the benefit of similar support services.

The following questions will be explored in an effort to create dialogue among and across researchers of traumatic events: How do internet researchers prepare for data collection both during and after times of crisis/terror/grief? What will we see/feel/experience long-term, particularly since traumatic images often resurface as “memories” on the platforms we study? Finally, how do we ensure that our research outputs do not retraumatize those affected, potentially contributing to mistrust in both academia and the Institutional Review Board system?

This roundtable brings together a group of researchers with first-hand experience in these matters: Daisy Pignetti, a New Orleans native, has published on how Hurricane Katrina permanently fused her personal and academic lives; Liza Potts’ work examines uses of social media for memory-making activities in the wake of disasters. Axel Bruns published a study of graphic images shared on Twitter after the Paris and Brussels attacks in 2015/2016. After witnessing Hurricane Maria’s devastation through Facebook videos when Puerto Rico’s communication system collapsed, Yonaira Rivera co-founded a grassroots organization to work with affected communities. Carlos Rodriguez-Diaz, in partnership with support networks developed via social media, studies how Puerto Ricans understand emergency response and recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria.

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