Finally going to press, the Fabrication Article.
Well, unless someone points out some egregious errors, I’m going to send this article off tomorrow for publication in Information, Communication, and Society (promises to be out before the end of the year!)
In this article, I briefly touch on some of the ethical dilemmas associated with protecting participants in internet-based social contexts and I discuss the concept of fabrication in relation to current trends that signal a continuing or even growing conservatism in qualitative inquiry. I then offer an introductory framework for ethically sensible premises and practices for creative fabrication in data analysis and representation and provide suggestions for shifting methodological practice to better protect privacy in situations where vulnerability or potential harm is possible or not easily determined. This article is particularly targeted toward the study of sensitive topics or situations where personhood, privacy, vulnerability, and harm may be ambiguous.
‘Fabrication’ may seem an odd choice to readers familiar with the way this term has been commonly defined. Particularly in scientific communities in the United States, fabrication is considered a form of research misconduct, often connected with its sister term ‘falsification.’ I am choosing the term deliberately to interrogate and destabilize the mistaken and often unspoken assumption that invention necessarily represents a lack of integrity and likewise, that ‘good’ research includes no trace of fabrication. Using the term also helps to highlight the constructive aspects associated with interpretation, a crucial element and strength of qualitative inquiry. My hope in this article is to provide a much-needed framework for qualitative researchers who struggle with the ethical dilemma of adequately anonymizing information while providing accounts that present rich descriptions and important details about the context or people.