Project Description

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Online academic bullying

Written by: Candice Spence 27 May 2019 Researcher: Dr Travis Noakes, Emeritus Professor Tim Noakes

Institution: Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)

Background and Aim:  

Online academic bullying is a serious problem that has yet be adequately defined. Our project seeks to prepare clear definitions for online academic bullying and mobbing that should prove useful for victims and policy makers who confront both phenomena: The activities of trolls and cyber-bullies have been well-defined for ideological, political, religious and non-ideological purposes. In contrast, the literature is silent about the deliberate targeting of academics who have taken unorthodox positions. This gap was identified with the experiences of Emeritus Professor Tim Noakes, who has had a lengthy exposure to targeting by academic bullies in traditional and new media after he changed his view in 2010 about what constitutes a healthy diet.

The first phase of the our project is to propose a clear definition for ‘online academic bullying’. In the second phase, we will do an in-depth social media data analysis that explores informal academic debates, illegitimate debates and severe harassment online on Twitter for key communication events of a scientific dispute. The data from this social media data analysis will also inform our explanation for how online academic mobbing is a distinct phenomenon versus traditional academic mobbing. In the third phase, we will explore the strategies of scholarly targets in response to online academic bullying and mobbing.

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