(This something that I have considered since working for local network television news. The readings lately and the other students viewpoint on this have just codified what I have known all along. Now I just have to find a way to research with this in mind. Stay tuned.)
Everyone has a bias, and objectivity is an illusion. If one admits and begins from this assumption, then individually, each of us can step back and analyse those biases to determine each of our qualifications or disqualifications for a particular study. However, if each of us can scrutinize those biases in depth and lay them out in the research study for all to see, construct study questions in such a way that the bias is minimized (admittedly difficult), allow the study participants to speak for themselves without any interpretational editing after the fact, and minimize the usage of linguistically loaded language that implies inferiority or superiority, then a valuable research study might result.
All of these issues and more are built into what Davidson describes in the table of four-fold perspective on subjectivity in Qualitative Research Design for the Software User. The subjectivity and role of the researcher are things that cannot be realistically controlled, given our individual environmental and cultural conditioning. Subjectivity, especially, is something that most individuals take for granted. Individuals assume that most people in their immediate surroundings are similar to them, but when behaviour that is counter or alien to what they assumed or expected, the response can be inconsiderate, and sometimes even culturally insensitive. Role can be controlled to some extent by certain personalities, but it is still subject to the same environment and cultural conditioning. Admitting these shortcomings as much as possible places more value on an individual as a researcher and on the research he or she is conducting.
Access to a particular group is also another condition that has to be considered. To accomplish this the study group in question must trust the researcher enough to let him or her into their inner sanctuary. In the case of the study of the Rromani people, trust of outsiders is difficult to achieve given the history of the abuses they have been subjected to for centuries. To take an example from the Tony Gatlif film, Gadjo Dilo (Crazy Stranger), the protagonist is looking for the long lost singer that his father obsessed over for years. He established trust by getting drunk with the camp’s patriarch and engaging in the same activities with the other members of the camp. I am not suggesting inebriation, but I am am suggesting that trust is established in many ways.
Ethics is permission to enter that inner sanctum, but it is also the personal ethics to do exactly what the researcher has unequivocally stated, nothing more. There must be no mincing of words, no manipulation of data and questions once one is given access.
To a certain extent, ethics is tied to subjectivity, but to an even greater extent, each of these elements are part and parcel of the overall necessity of maintaining objectivity in the face of subjectivity and being aware of what one is doing each step of the way and reassessing the goals of the study and one’s biases.