Challenging online feaR And OtheRing
Cultures of fear can be propagated, either deliberately or unwittingly, by a wide range of agents including the media, government, science, the arts, industry and politics. The ease with which fear can be generated means that today’s society remains inordinately fearful of improbable harms and dangers. A good deal of societal fear stems from mistrust of the Other; a term used to describe individuals or groups that are, quite simply, ‘not like us’. It is argued that practices of Othering, and the continuous interpretation of difference, are essential for the construction of cultural and societal identity, the term is typically used in contexts where the Other are seen as “anomalous,” “peculiar,” or “deviant”, and hence negatively perceived, stigmatised, excluded, marginalised and discriminated against.
The focus of this project is on the cultures of fear that are propagated through online Othering and subsequent mistrust of groups or communities. The specific challenge addressed is to generate an understanding of how the deliberate design, and orchestrated deployment, of digital and social media, and online interactive experiences more broadly, can influence and oppose cultures of fear and result in cultures of empathy that can actively, and strategically, reduce or eliminate mistrust and negative consequences of Othering.
Date: August 2014 – August 2017
Funder: ESRC (EMoTiCoN)
Collaborators: Julie Barnett (Bath), Karen Salt (Aberdeen), and Vanessa Pupavac (Nottingham).
Shaun joined Northumbria University in November 2015 after leaving the University of Lincoln where he led the Lincoln Social Computing (LiSC) Research Centre for a number of years.
After doing a postdoc at the University of Surrey, he took up his first academic post at in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University in 2000. In 2005 he moved to Lincoln first as a Senior Lecturer, then Reader and he was appointed the Uk’s first Professor in social computing in 2011. His research primarily explores the use and significance of social media, and other digital services, in people’s lives and he has conducted applied work in areas such as health and wellbeing, politics and activism, and sustainability. His current focus is on the convergence of broadcast and social media in political and societal context and on how technology is used is support mental health, wellbeing and social support and cohesion. He has held grants totalling over £2million in the past 5 years from funders such as EPSRC, ESRC, the EU and Microsoft Research and is the author, or co-author, of over 100 peer-reviewed publications. He was Chair of British HCI 2015 and is the founding chair of the UK’s SIGCHI chapter.
I’m a designer by background, and most of my current research is located in the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI) and participatory design.
My research focuses on the study of how people experience, appropriate and use digital technologies in their everyday lives. I often take a research through design approach, which for me involves designing new digital prototypes, artefacts and “things” with citizens, and studying the creation and use of these prototypes to generate knowledge that is both valuable to designers and advances our understanding of social phenomena. I am specifically interested in how technology is interwoven with issues such as independence and agency in later life, could support informal and relational care for people of all ages, and might help scaffold “friendly” and “caring” communities. I also have experience and ongoing interests in human experience and technology design as it relates to self-care, trust, security and empathic communication. Generally, I’m intrigued by the ways in which digital technologies might support new interactions and engagements between people in relation to these issues, rather than be used to replace human contact (as is often the case).
Along with the above, a large amount of my research examines the practical and ethical dimensions of conducting participatory design (and participatory research in general) with citizens, especially in sensitive contexts and with people with heightened vulnerabilities. Therefore I have an ongoing interest in understanding the methods and techniques used for involving people in design and research processes, and have been involved in a series of professional events and journal special issues unpicking the ethical encounters faced when conducting participatory and technology oriented research with participants.
Tom joined Northumbria University in February 2016, as a research assistant on the CuRAtOR: Challenging online feaR And OtheRing project, which aims to explore how new interactive digital experiences might be designed to counteract the problematic outcomes of Othering and fearful representations.
Having completed an undergraduate degree in Games Computing at University of Lincoln, Tom started working as a research assistant on the CuRAtOR project at the University of Lincoln in 2014. He moved to Northumbria University in February 2016 to join Professor Shaun Lawson in the newly formed Northumbria Social Computing Lab (NorSC Lab). He is currently finalising a MSc by Research at University of Lincoln on the subject of user-centred design of game analytics visualisations.
His research focuses on the societal and cultural impact of digital and social media technologies, visualisations and mapping of data, and the appropriation and usage of technology for political and activist purposes.
Prior to research I worked in the computer games industry for 12 years where I held positions ranging from games designer, graphics programmer and physics programmer before finalising my role as the technical lead of a small games studio. This experience included AA titles developed for PS3, Xbox and Wii and included feature films and world sporting events. I left the games industry but continue to blog and release indie games for iOS and Windows PC under the name BaaWolf. Games like Thatgamecompany’s Flower, and Osmos from Hemisphere Games continue to inspire my interest in this field. I entered into research three years ago and began to apply gaming technology and experience to creating digital prototypes. Magic Land: The Design and Evaluation of an Interactive Tabletop Supporting Therapeutic Play with Children used my own game engine and toolset to deliver a robust and polished digital prototype allowing research to concentrate on the important elements like producing new opportunities for play. I am continuing to develop innovative gaming technologies as my research agenda begins to focus on the experience of play in digital technologies.