Social media is...: Navigating the purpose, ethics, and access of digital methods for the kinesiology for individuals with disabilities.

Takeaway: Social media networks can be an advantageous place to conduct research by extending the reach of traditional research. However, critical conversations need to be had regarding the ethics of this kind of research, particularly when it included those with disabilities and is focused on personal information regarding health. This presentations sought to start this dialogue.
Cite as: Colombo-Dougovito, A.M., & McNamara, S. W. T. (2021, June). Social media is…: Navigating the purpose, ethics and access of digital methods for the adapted field. Paper presented as an “Innovation Session” at the International Symposium of Adapted Physical Activity 2021 annual meeting, Jyväskylä, Finland.



The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a wide-spread and wildly disruptive force. Increased concerns of virus transmission during in-person meetings have halted many research projects and has caused many to search for digital methods to continue data collection. As daily tasks are increasingly shifted to the digital environment, researchers have been forced to contend with this shifting praxis. Though not a novel means of data generation, more and more scholars are turning to digital spaces, particularly social networking sites (SNSs), to recruit, collect, and disseminate research. As these spaces are relatively "new", little guidance or accepted practice exist concerning the ethics and practice of generating data or recruiting participants within these spaces (Kelley et al., 2013).

Target group of the innovation or best practice:

Over the last 15 years, SNSs have drastically changed the way that people communicate with one another (Carpenter & Krutka, 2014; Casey & Kirk, 2014). Increasingly, SNSs are being leveraged by traditionally marginalized individuals to build community around shared experiences and build advocacy movements. As a research tool, SNSs have provided access to these communities; however, much of this research has operated under the assumption that information shared on these SNSs is public data (Kelley et al., 2013) and mining said data is outside of most ethical guidance. Such laize faire practices, however, increases the potential for exploitation and abuse. This presentation will provide a space to discuss ethical issues regarding social media research and its places among adapted physical activity research.

Brief description of the presentation:

Despite the myriad health concerns surrounding various disabled communities, present research continues to to struggle to provide accessible solutions as recruitment is often limited to small, convenient (often, privileged) participant samples. Meaning, scaling solutions and practices are difficult as previous findings may not generalize to a more representative sample of participants. Leveraging digital methods and accessing SNSs may provide opportunity to recruit more diverse sample populations, thus extending the reach of a single study and the likelihood of better generalization or transference. With a central goal of creating a space to discuss the ethical concerns of digital methods and conducting research on SNSs, this presentation will examine prior research using SNSs and present a case-study of a recently conducted study conducted through a popular SNS.

Possible conclusions:

In exploring the past use of digital methods and SNSs for research purposes, this presentation will provide a moderated opportunity for scholars in the adapted physical activity field to explore how digital methods might be leveraged in post-COVID research and why engaging in these methods will provide more accessible experiences for our intended populations. Lastly, as digital competency is increasingly mandatory, attendees will be exposed to the ethical concerns with digital research methods and have an opportunity to reflect on what these methods mean for the field and the populations this intends to benefit.

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