Anonymisation and visual images: issues of respect, 'voice' and protection

Wiles, Rose and Coffey, Amanda and Robison, Judy and Heath, Sue (2010) Anonymisation and visual images: issues of respect, 'voice' and protection. Anonymisation and visual images, n/a (n/a). n/a. ISSN n/a (Unpublished)

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A central ethical issue confronting researchers using visual approaches is how to manage the use of identifiable images. Photographic and other visual materials can make the anonymisation of individuals problematic; at the same time many researchers as well as research participants view image manipulation and anonymisation as undesirable. There may be pressure from a range of stakeholders for images to be anonymised, particularly in relation to research with vulnerable groups, for example children. There are also a range of ethical concerns that need consideration in relation to the use of identifiable images; these include the contexts in which images were produced and may be consumed, the longevity of images in the public domain and the potential for future uses of images. This paper explores the ways in which researchers approach issues of anonymisation in visual research, drawing on a qualitative study of ethical issues in visual research. Focus group discussions and interviews with visual researchers revealed the ongoing challenge of identification and anonymisation. While decisions about visual identification are inevitably complex and situated, our data showed that there is an ongoing tension between, on the one hand, research participants’ rights and researchers’ desire for participants to be seen and heard and, on the other hand, researchers’ real and perceived responsibility to protect participants.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Taylor & Francis for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in International Journal of Social Research Methodology, , January 2011. doi:10.1080/13645579.2011.564423 (
Subjects: 4. Qualitative Data Handling and Data Analysis > 4.13 Visual Data Analysis
4. Qualitative Data Handling and Data Analysis > 4.23 Qualitative Approaches (other)
8. Research Management and Impact > 8.3 Research Ethics
9. Research Skills, Communication and Dissemination > 9.7 Research Skills, Communication and Dissemination (other)
Depositing User: NCRM users
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2011 16:02
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 13:54

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