Published June 7, 2021 | Version 1
Conference paper Open

Risky research and researcher risk: Reflecting on emotionally involved information research through the lens of COVID-19.

  • 1. UCL


This paper will draw upon recent research into COVID-19 information practices to discuss the experience of studying risk from a researcher perspective, including the impact that emotionally engaged scholarship might have upon information science. Conceptions of risk play a prominent role within society, but they have generally been studied from a quantitative, positivist perspective that prioritises objective calculation and expert judgement (e.g., Beck, 1992). A growing recognition that risk must be understood as shaped through social and cultural processes (Douglas, 1992) has led to the rise of more qualitative explorations of risk, including within information studies (Hicks, 2019). However, the concept of risk introduces a variety of methodological challenges, including the potential to expose researchers to the need to navigate sensitive and emotional narratives. This paper will use recent (and ongoing) research into COVID information practices, including in relation to lockdown, illness and vaccines, as a lens to discuss emotionally engaged online research. Themes that will be discussed include invasive co-presence and therapeutic detachment, which reflect the affective implications of carrying out risk research within a socially-distanced setting.


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