Hello, and welcome to my online community ethnography project blog!
In the world of digital media, there are endless possibilities to create new identities, to explore new worlds, and to partake in discussions otherwise kept silent in the privacy of people’s homes. As more and more opportunities arise for people to delve deeper and deeper into the inter-workings of cyberspace, legal and ethical issues also arise. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep track of every issue brought to the public’s attention, and the lines of what is legally and morally right are becoming blurrier than ever.
As a journalism student, I am told daily that the publication world is changing. Everything is moving online to the vast world of digital media. This semester, one of my teachers has assigned my class the task to research an online community and explore possible legal and ethical questions that surround the site, the users, the viewers, and even its use by outside members. We are not to judge or frame anyone. That is not the intent. The objective is to take this opportunity to look into a different realm of communication and community, learn something new, exercise our new found knowledge in digital media law and ethics and produce our findings in an innovative, experimental (and digitally-focused) way.
For the next week and a half, I will be exploring the world of erowid.org, an extensive site about psychoactive drugs (categorized by plant, herb, chemicals, etc). The site includes research articles, personal experiences, art, events, and much more information for over 25 drugs. The content is submitted by a mix of different people who use the sight for various reasons. And while many of the drugs and compounds explored on the site are illegal in the United States, there are legal drugs that are focused on as well.
In my research, I am curious about struggles that the site creators have had to face, their motives behind developing such an extensive drug database, and if there has been any outside pressure and persecution towards the creators and the site’s content. I wonder about the ethical concerns of what is published and how, what parts of the drugs are focused on and why, and I hope to look at the ethics of conversation throughout the site.
To help me get a better understanding of the site in its entirety, I hope to look at the people involved and also those who are outside the community. What are their thoughts about a site dedicated to drugs that are so often feared and discussed negatively? Are there people who are worried about the effect this site may have on others and their drug use? Are there people who think that a site which allows discussion of the dangers and enjoyment of the drugs is a valuable thing?
I hope in the next week and a half to have all these questions answered and more! I am also curious to know what you think. Check out www.erowid.org, and post any thoughts you may have that relate to what is discussed here.