Coursework 2 feedback, Ethics reflections

January for me has been a whirlwind of deadlines. Having a grand total of 4 deadlines within 3 weeks, not to mention starting lectures, my job, and my PhD application process, it was needless to say a very busy month! However, now that we’re into February, things are settling into a routine, and I’m starting to take more of a focus on my final project now.

I submitted the second piece of coursework to help my prepare for my dissertation, looking at the ideas of ‘Beyond Face Value’. The essay was focused on getting us to think beyond the data, to go past scratching the surface and develop our analytical research skills when it comes to data. We were asked to show our skill in being able to research and analyse data relevant to our topic, and to demonstrate how we linked not only our project and research, but also theoretical ideas into our analysis.

Given that I am looking at the #BasicBitch on Instagram, I have a huge realm of data that I can draw upon. I have decided to narrow my search and only use images that fall under the category of ‘selfie’ i.e. they need to be taken by the subject in question, and be of a self-portrait nature. I also specifically searched for images that the authors themselves had tagged with #BasicBitch, so I would not be putting my own reading onto these images, and instead I am following what they are choosing to self-represent as on the social media platform.

Having set up my dedicated Instagram account so I can search, I set about getting ethical approval. This is a fairly straightforwards process within the university, and given my research involves no participant interaction, nor is the subject overly sensitive or difficult, I was able to get ethical clearance quickly. I was sure to state my intentions very clearly on my research Instagram account in order to avoid doing covert research, which has a lot of ethical issues.

This is where I was called up short during my coursework feedback. From the images I selected from the #BasicBitch search, I downloaded and saved them responsibly, however I have not opted to anonymise my participants. Instead I have credited the Instagram account author with each image. Within my essay, I failed to fully explain my reasons behind this, so I will take the opportunity to do so now.

To anonymise my participants, when I am looking at representations of femininity through the use of selfies, would be very difficult. To blur the face would make most of my research unusable – especially when make up is so important to this hashtag trend online. As I cannot anonymise without jeopardising my own research, the alternative is to fairly and fully credit the authors of the images. In doing so, the authors retain their agency and ownership of the images, and as all the images I am using come from accounts that have them set to be viewed publicly, the images are part of the public domain online. By crediting the authors and using their materials fairly in my work, I feel that this demonstrates good reason behind not anonymising my participants.

The coursework itself gave me a good opportunity to explore my visual analysis skills, as I haven’t used them since my dissertation in my third year of undergraduate. I combined visual analysis with a more theoretical approach, specifically looking at how the authors of the images used/understood Postfeminist agency through their tagging. I also looked in detail at feminine beauty aesthetics and what (to me) constitutes the Basic Bitch aesthetic. I only used a small set of data (two images) to get really in depth discussion.

I’m hoping to have a video up soon about a recent trip to a department store’s high end make up section and my purchases there and the experiences in general. Think of it as field research!


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