Pictorial Consent: Fieldwork Reflections
European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies (EUSSET)
Obtaining participants’ informed consent is a fundamental ethical requirement of human-centered research. Researchers working with disadvantaged populations in the Global South face the challenge of communicating to participants the many aspects of a study that require consent, for example, the goals of the research and the data privacy risks and assurances. We reflect on our experience of conducting fieldwork in rural Bangladesh and the inadequacy of standard practices of obtaining written or verbal consent. Consent practices that are deemed effective and sufficient in the Global North have left many of our Bangladeshi participants confused (at best) and indifferent (at worst), thereby jeopardizing the ethical integrity of our research. In response, we developed a pictorial consent communication process. Our reflections on its use have led us to highlight the detachment of traditional consent processes from the realities of the field, and call for their root-and-branch re-evaluation. This is a preliminary contribution, intended to provoke discussion and action on a more inclusive informed consent process design.