Let’s Play It Safe: Ethical Considerations from Participants in a Photovoice Research Project

Karin Hannes, Oksana Parylo


The use of images and other visual data in qualitative research projects poses new ethical challenges, particularly in the context of participatory research projects that engage research participants in conducting fieldwork. Little is known about how research participants deal with the ethical challenges involved in conducting fieldwork, or whether they succeed in making balanced ethical judgments in collecting images of identifiable people and places. This study aims to increase our understanding of these ethical challenges. From an inductive analysis of interview data generated from nine participants recently involved in a photovoice research project we conclude that raising awareness about ethical aspects of conducting visual research increases research participants’ sensitivity toward ethical issues related to privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality of research subjects. However, personal reasons (e.g., cultural, emotional) and cautions about potential ethical dilemmas also prompt avoidance behavior. While ethics sessions may empower participants by equipping them with the knowledge of research ethics, ethics sessions may also have an unintentional impact on research.

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