📗 Ethics and Consent Process Manual


1. Background

2. Consent on the forum: The consent funnel

3. Consent on the forum: Auxiliary methods

4. Consent for recording community calls

5. Additional resources

1. Background

edgeryders.eu is intended as a collective intelligence engine. Most conversations are part of one or more participatory processes, and are aggregated to produce a result. In other words, we almost always do some kind of research with Edgeryders material. This implies taking very seriously the issue of research ethics. In this topic, we document the different ways we acquire from participants to our conversations their informed consent to their content being used for research.

European Commission Research Ethics in Ethnography/Anthropology:

2. Consent on the forum: The consent funnel

The so-called “consent funnel” is our default method of gathering informed consent from users for content they post on the edgeryders.eu forum. Here is how it works:

To post on edgeryders.eu, people need to create an account. The first time they open the editor to post from that account, the forum serves them a simple questionnaire to inform them of the website’s research purposes, and make sure they understand how to use it. Currently, the form looks like this:

As long as users provide wrong answers (for example, if they reply that they would gladly share their credit card number, or not protect their identity properly when worrying about consequences of posting their content), the questionnaire “stalls”, preventing the user from posting until he or she gets the response right:

Once the user provides the right answers, the website records that he or she has consented to participating in research and understands what that means. The date of completion of questionnaire is stored in the edgeryders.eu database.

Upon retrieval for data processing (for example, ethnographic coding or SSNA, only the content associated to users who have completed the process is served. This is necessary because some content was created before we put this process in place.

The text of the questions, answers and feedback is maintained in our Github repository. This is also the place to make necessary changes: edit the file, commit and ask @matthias to test and deploy the new version.

3. Consent on the forum: Auxiliary methods

3.1. Physical events

The process used for physical events, based on the workshop on Inequalities in the age of AI, works like this:

  1. In the opening of the event, inform participants that notes will be taken, and they will be used for research. Introduce the research in question.

  2. People are still encouraged to post on the platform; if they do, the consent funnel applies as usual.

This method is privacy-aware, but does not lead to well-formed social semantic networks because the identities of individual speakers are lost.

3.2. Posting on edgeryders.eu before signup through an online form

We have created two feeder websites. register.edgeryders.eu elicits reflections pertaining to our projects in the form of a registration to a physical event. listen.edgeryders.eu is a facility for reporting the results of listening triads during events. Both feeder websites contain questions pertaining to the research, and elicit one piece of structured data, the informant’s email address. Both contain a tick box next to a statement that the person filling the form understands that the content will be used for research. The statement uses the same wording as the consent funnel. If the box is not ticked, submission of content and email address is impossible.

Upon submitting the form, edgeryders.eu creates a new account associated to the email address in question; marks this new account as having successfully completed the ethical funnel; and posts the answers to the question in the form of a new topic, whose authorship is attributed to the newly created account.

3.3. One-on-one interviews

For one-on-one interviews, two methods have been used. One is a more or less standard informed consent process.

TODO: Link a resource with available evidence (email threads?).

The second method re-uses the idea of questions that the interviewee must answer, and proposes the same questions that the consent funnel does, only in paper form.

TODO: Collect the signed form and link to a resource where they can be found.

3.4. Interviewee posting her own interview

This process was prototyped by @hugi at Internetdagarna and works as follows:

  1. You need an installation of the edgeryders-form software, with the form configured with the questions you want to ask the interviewees.

  2. At the beginning of the interview, explain that at its end they would be asked to provide a username and e-mail address and that an account would be created for them at edgeryders.eu with that information and their transcribed answers would be posted under that account. Explain that they would get a confirmation email and that they could log in and update or delete the post at any time, and that they can also participate in the conversation as they please.

  3. Transcribe their answers as well as possible during the interview. That means entering their answers into the form software while sitting next to them or across from them. You can ask follow-up questions to dig deeper before moving on.

  4. At the last page of the form software, ask them to choose a username and provide an e-mail address. Explain that the e-mail address will not be made public and will only be available to staff members. Also explain that they can choose a username that makes them anonymous if they so please.

  5. Asked the participant to carefully read the consent text, and then to check the consent box themselves and press the send button. The consent text should be as follows (here in English only, but potentially also translated):

    “I understand that submitting this form will create an account for me on edgeryders.eu, and that my responses will be posted by that account. I understand that I can log in at any time and update my answer or continue the conversation with other participants. I understand that this form is used for community driven research. Researchers are encouraged to treat your answers as a window into societal, economic, technological, and political trends and transformations that affect us.”

4. Consent for recording community calls

Some people ask us to post audio recordings of community calls. We recommend not to do this, as doing this ethically is quite tricky. Much better to post written accounts, authored by a specific individual (normally a community manager), and viewed through the lens of their subjectivity. Additionally, community calls are meant to encourage casual sociality, and we have found that people are more reluctant to socialize if they know there are permanent records of their interaction.

If you still decide to go ahead and do it, you need to make sure that people give their consent before the call, ideally in writing. This is because consent is not supposed to be sprung on people: they need to have time to consider whether to give it or not. In a group setting, there is the additional issue that an individual might feel pressured to say yes if everyone else has said yes. When you start the call, begin by confirming that everyone is still OK with the consent they have given. If someone comes on the call that has not given consent, you are then supposed to stop recording.

5. Additional resources

For cases not covered here, the Association of Internet Researchers has ethical guidelines. See also their 2019 report.

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List of other posts in which consent process issues are discussed to inform the update of this manual:

Call Consent funnel recommendations (will fill in in post above)

Participant info sheet as of now:

General version for filling in:

Prefilled NGI version:

@amelia, there are a few questions after going through a few sessions and interviews on this basis which would potentially create the necessity of changes in this document:

  1. Should we add something there about making the sound recording potentially available on the platform?
  2. How should transcripts be treated in terms of “cleaning up”
  3. How should transcripts be posted? (one author, different authors, names of speakers, one text, different posts, etc.)

Also connected to consent stuff/registration:

Registration Form Questions:


Discussion on how to code calls:



Ethnographic practise in general:

Reflections after surveillance pandemic call by ethno team:


Ethics (Poprebel):


We have to figure out a way to connect the registration for summits/events and the signup for the platform in one step! We again get the feedback that there are too many hoops to go through with the Eventbrite + the platform registration and many people do not understand that they have to/why to register for the platform. They feel like they registered on Eventbrite and that’s it. Followup emails with requests to sign up are perceived as confusing and an annoyance.


" I just signed up and I gather I have to also sign up for one of the sub communities in order to comment so that I can be allowed to attend this webinar?

What is it that is done with all this data you are collecting?

This is really quite a lot of hoops to jump through."

Do we need Eventbrite at all?

I don’t know. Could we do it directly with a form that leads intot he platform? Do we have one?

Eh, that’s the issue with the Webkit that is still unsolved. @nadia has been using Airtable, fed by a webkit-built website.

I think it would be worth putting some priority on solving that since it looses/angers many people we onboard via events.

we are in the hands of @hugi and @owen. They are doing their best.

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@owen, as I understand it the issue blocking that should now be fixed.

Have been playing around with the webinar add-on.

there you have the “panelists” and the “attendees”.

The former have video, the latter can only watch. Was thinking if we could use that to make the consent easier for bigger event. e.g. we only collect consent from the featured speakers and if a “attendee” wants to raise their voice and ask a question/join the panel during the call we send them the consent info sheet directly and have them consent to it in the chat before promoting them to panelist?

@amelia, what do you say to that?

This works as long as you post this process and consent form/information sheet at least 24 hours in advance of the call (ideally more than that) so that the attendees have enough time to consider whether or not to participate based on the information in that form.

ok, in that case disregard that idea

To be clear, they don’t have to sign it then, but it needs to be accessible to them so they know that this will be the protocol!

There are unfortunately still issues with the form… I am trying to solve it and will let you know when it is working.

Using Edgeryders Forms is this the one we will be using? Can it include the consent funnel requirements in the template?

Changed the details in the templates for the participant information sheet to remove chatham house rules and include instead :slight_smile:
“We record the call, transcribe the recording, and post parts of it on our forum. We only mention you by the Edgeryders username you have selected. If you prefer not to be mentioned by username, please let us know in advance of the call.”

This way we can actually ping people with their usernames in the transcripts. Better for SSNA. Checked with @amelia.

@MariaEuler, I recommend changing this like you changed it in the Participant Information Sheet.

we also added

“If at any point you’d like your contributions removed from the online forum, just ask one of the admins and they will happily take it down.”
to the participant information sheet templates

this is about real live events.

How do we want to handle those? Just replacing it with the line with the one below seems wrong since recording real live events needs more care or is it fine? Should we record real live events?

“We transcribe recordings of the event, and post parts of it on our forum. We only mention you by the Edgeryders username you have selected. If you prefer not to be mentioned by username, please let us know in advance of the call.”

“If the event is recorded make sure to inform the participants before and during the event” ???

OK, team, this ongoing discussion about consent funnels is too disjointed. I’ve been pinged about it on too many different places on platform, with too many specific asks without enough context. @MariaEuler and I also agreed in our call today that it needs to be better systematised.

I suggest the following:

  1. Create templates for the different kinds of research data-gathering events that you plan to have (e.g. one for in-person events, one for online events, and one for interviews) and save them in this Consent Process Manual. This work is already well on its way in the manual. Update them consistently here.

  2. Any conversation around editing the general procedure should be had here and immediately implemented in the Consent Process Manual.

  3. Any conversation around the specifics of the meeting itself (these should only be minor tweaks to each form — if they bring up larger issues that you see potentially coming up in future events, they need to be discussed and documented here).

  4. Each specific instance of the form we use should be saved in the same place to create a database (e.g. a shared Google Drive folder, or a series of links on this Consent Process Manual, either way linked directly to this manual itself).

This way, we can make sure that we are building upon the work we have done instead of duplicating it, that we are doing things in an open, consistent, and well-documented way, and not making on-the-fly decisions about research ethics.

Pinging @alberto @nadia @johncoate @noemi @MariaEuler, and please ping anyone else who has been involved (@LauraRoddy, @andreja?)

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