December 24, 2007
Re “On Facebook, Scholars Link Up With Data” (front page, Dec. 17):
To the Editor:
Leave the kids alone!
As your article rightly observes, though gorgeous research possibilities for networking theory have exploded via explorations into Facebook, this type of fieldwork poses many compelling ethical and methodological issues — the rights of the researched, data collection from self-selected populations and, of course, privacy issues.
But one glaring unintended consequence must be considered: the reckless intrusion of adults into one of the few remaining sacred spaces where young people congregate for the creation of subculture, meaning and community.
Sites like Facebook offer connectivity, identity and refuge beyond the gaze of an ever-expanding, increasingly repressive and indifferent adult authority structure.
Before we proceed as scholars, let us first be citizens.
There needs to be a serious and lengthy conversation among scholars and youth activists about power and rights of access. The intergenerational politics and ethics violations inherent in this work are not so pretty.
New York, Dec. 17, 2007
The writer is a sociologist and author on youth culture.