How to negotiate video data access and recording permissions

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Christof Haug wrote a question about this to the Languse mailing list. Here is a combination of the answers from Cecilia Ford, Marco Pino and Ruth Parry.


If subjects request the camera to be turned off, or withdraw consent...

  1. What problems can this create regarding the data analysis
  2. How can you negotiate access to the in-camera parts of the meeting.

Answer 1: Cecilia Ford

I have recorded lots of meetings for which participants were explicitly allowed to have me turn the camera(s) for any reason. In one meeting, there was going to be a discussion of something sensitive in the institution, so I simply ended the taping at that time, left the room, and was invited back in when the topic had passed. In another case, I did have a participant ask me after the meeting to erase a portion when she felt she was gossiping. I was happy to do this (especially since it was before I had even started to transcribe on analyze the video). Finally, in one meeting a participant jokingly held his hand up to the camera as a certain interchange (I believe it was flirtation between him and another meeting participant) emerged. This was a while back, but I recall that I did check with the two participants after the taping, and they did have me remove that segment.

For my purposes at that time, these deletions were not problematic. Of course, if my research question was about delicate moments or sensitive topics, this would be a big loss. My interest is not so much in "exceptional" moments of interaction but rather in recurrent patterns. If a phenomenon is real and recurrent, then it will happen again.

In general, my principle for all recording is that the participants be explicitly offered the chance to withdraw or have segments deleted. I want people to feel as unguarded as possible, and the possible loss of something rich and interesting is the price I pay.

Answer 2: Marco Pino

  • Lorenza Mondada "Ethics in Action: Anonymization as a Participant’s Concern and a Participant’s Practice" Human Studies DOI 10.1007/s10746-013-9286-9

Answer 3: Ruth Parry

My experiences are of two and three party healthcare rather than meetings but some reflections I hope are relevant

Re data analysis

I think the main thing is to try to get as much knowledge as you can about the kind of matters that you are not getting access to - I don't mean the specific details but the general character of what gets discussed when you are not recording. Do this through ethnographic observational and (dare I say it) interview work, and through consulting people similar to your participants who have first-hand experience of the domain. This knowledge will help you be very clear about what you can and cannot make claims about based upon the data you have. I wrote something broadly relevant though not quite on the same point on p379 in this chapter: Parry R (2010) 'Video-based conversation analysis'. In: Bourgeault I, Dingwall R, de Vries R, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Methods in Health Research. London, Sage: 373-396

Re negotiating access

There are strategies you can use to maximise access - and you should use these provided your purpose is to maximising validity and usefulness of your research:

  1. Try to help participants understand as much as possible what you are going to do, and claim from the data. Use other CA studies' findings to illustrate. Sometimes people make incorrect assumptions about what you are looking at. This can be a particular problem in folks familiar with some forms of qual research that take a highly critical / judgmental stance towards the people/organisations studied.
  2. Give participants the option to allow undisguised data to be accessed only by members of the research team
  3. Take both pre and post data collection consent - with genuine commitment to erasing data collected if post-recording consent not granted
  4. You will have to make local, and really difficult in situ judgements about how strongly or weakly you encourage participants to allow you to record, this is always very difficult - if only we could read people's minds and get a 'true' picture of their concerns, understandings and consent (!!!)