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This chapter explores the ethical complexities of researching location-aware social discovery Smartphone applications (apps) and how they mediate contemporary experiences…
This chapter explores the ethical complexities of researching location-aware social discovery Smartphone applications (apps) and how they mediate contemporary experiences of travel. We highlight the context-specific approach required to carrying out research on Tinder, a location-aware app that enables people to connect with others in close proximity to them. By journeying through the early stages of our research project, we demonstrate how ethical considerations and dilemmas began long before our project became a project. We discuss the pulls toward data extraction/mining of user-generated content (i.e., Tinder user profiles) within digital social research and the ethical challenges of using this data for research purposes. We focus particularly on issues of informed consent, privacy, and copyright, and the differences between manual and automated data mining/extraction techniques. Excerpts from our university ethics application are included to demonstrate how our research sits uneasily within standardized ethical protocols. Our moves away from a ‘big data’ approach to more ‘traditional’ and participatory methodologies are located within questions of epistemology and ontology including our commitment to practicing a feminist research ethic. Our chapter concludes with the lessons learned in the aim to push forward with research in challenging online spaces and with new data sources.