Shapelings, a student needs your help

I got an e-mail yesterday from a woman named Caroline, who’s an Economics and Sociology student at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She’s doing a final year project (which I take to be a senior thesis, for the Americans among us) on the obesity panic and fat politics, and she’s been instructed to do a “virtual ethnography” — studying the discussion at an online community — as part of it. Problem is, she needs to get permission from commenters to quote them, even though this project is not for publication. 

The best way I could think of to go about this was to issue a call for regular commenters who are interested in participating to e-mail Caroline your screen name, so she can get in touch if she needs consent to use your words. If you’re an active commenter — or even not that active — and you’d like to help out, please drop Caroline a line at carolinecashman at gmail dot com. The more responses she gets, the more she’ll be able to pick and choose from among the zillions of awesome comments here. 

Here’s a little more about the project, in Caroline’s words. If you have any questions or suggestions for her, you can leave them on this thread — or, of course, e-mail her.

My final year project (which will remain unpublished) is basically a critical view on obesity, and in particular a critical view on the alleged obesity epidemic. My literature review covers the limitations of the BMI, why obesity should not be defined as a disease and it questions the relationship between obesity and various diseases as well as mortality. I also examine the politics involved; the fact that pharmaceutical companies – particularly those associated with various weight loss drugs – have been found to sponsor numerous obesity forums and organisations, and how this influences the content of their websites etc. The research that is funded by these pharmaceutical companies is obviously going to be biased in favour of the obesity epidemic, which eventually means that due to the amount of articles being published of this genre, the government have no choice but to act accordingly.
Of course I couldn’t forget the dieting industry! – and the promotion of so many different ‘treatments’ for obesity from the aktins diet to the south beach diet and of course the goverenments ‘food pyramid’ which advises us that our diets should be mostly made up of carbs. I will be analysing the research to support these claims as well as the effectiveness of dieting in the first place and the comparision between dieting and surgery where necessary.
However, it’s worth noting that I have been advised to stay away from including the medias role in the epidemic, even though I know its a large one, but that would probably take up the entire project :) 
I’m also still trying to decide how much I want to include on stigmatisation, as again, I could go on forever! But even if I don’t dedicate a chapter to it, then I will probably just incorporate it throughout the whole project where relevant so any comments in relation to stigmatisation would also be much appreciated.


15 thoughts on “Shapelings, a student needs your help”

  1. Technically she doesn’t need permission to quote something posted on an unlocked forum, but it is polite of her to ask, especially since people here use their real names in some cases.

    I think. It’s been a while since I read the AoIR Ethics Guide.

    My PhD dissertation was a virtual ethnography as well. Yay for Internet Research!


  2. The AoIR doesn’t seem to have anyone from Ireland on it so perhaps her University’s rules should take priority for her work there?

    She can quote me if she ever needs to.

  3. I did a virtual ethnography once for a life online class. I’d love to have a chance to read this when she finishes!

  4. Good luck on your project! I’m sure there are many here and elsewhere in the Fatosphere who would love to read the finished product.

  5. The AoIR doesn’t seem to have anyone from Ireland on it so perhaps her University’s rules should take priority for her work there?

    AoIR is the International Association of Internet Researchers. They are the single most influential body of people who do academic and scholarly work on all manner of digital media subjects.

    Most universities do not have a specific HSRB policy to cover the Internet, which is why AoIR wrote up the guidelines in the first place. Scholars approaching HSRB committees could state they were adhering to the Association’s ethical guidelines to prevent questions from the committee about meeting standards to human subject research.


  6. I sent off my permission. If her university or her program or her advisor has even more stringent standards than the AoIR, more power to them.

  7. Hi!
    I am also sudying the fat acceptance movement ! I am a PhD. student at York University, in Toronto, Canada. Robert Kozinets, who developed the method of “netnography” is my professor, and I am working with Dr. Eileen Fisher, another great researcher, on this project.
    I´ll present the project at the PCA/ACA in New Orleans this year – and I´m really interested in talking to Caroline and all of you about it.
    The need for consent for using blogs as research sites is still debatable… I agree that asking never hurts :) I got the bloggers´ consent, and will ask for readers´ consent in case I decide to quote any comment. Of course names will be changed for pseudonyms and all personal information will be disguised.

  8. I’m commenting for the sole purpose of saying that Wow, what a random and unexpected place to see my university mentioned! And how very, very nice a surprise. Good luck with the FYP, Caroline!

  9. Interesting. We’ve been trying to fight this because in the field of Communication the method CA (Conversation Analysis) does not have to go through IRB approval but Enthography’s do. Personally, I’m a rhetorical critic so it doesn’t bother me much.
    And I am also using Shapely prose for my thesis (which I promise to start writing today….)! How fun to have so many folks looking at this blog! Love it!

    Last semester I did a rhetorical crit on First, Do No Harm and the communication functions of consciousness raising on the blog act as healing activism… hopefully it’ll get into NCA and ya’ll will see it published somewhere.(My prof wants to me submit it for publication…) Horray for Fat Studies and the interweb!!

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