Inviting, affording and translating harm: Understanding the role of technological mediation in technology-facilitated violence

Wood, M. A., Mitchell, M., Pervan, F., Anderson, B., O’Neill, T., Wood, J., & Arpke-Wales, W. (2023). Inviting, affording and translating harm: Understanding the role of technological mediation in technology-facilitated violence. The British Journal of Criminology, 1–21.


Open access: Yes

Notes: Authors foreground the need to better understand how digital technologies shape the enactment of harm to others—that is, the mediation processes. Indeed, they argue that prevailing theories in the study of digital violence—extension theories and actor-network theory—are helpful but insufficient to explain this phenomenon. By engaging with postphenomenology, authors construct a typology to study the intersections between users’ intentions and digital media. Based on this typology, they build a decision tree to identify and respond to technology-facilitated violence.

Quote: “While the existing literature has focused primarily on technology’s ability to express and extend the capabilities of individuals who perpetrate violence, it has not thoroughly addressed technology’s ability to shape perpetrators’ perceptions, experiences and actions.” (p.2)

Abstract: Technologies not only extend capabilities but also mediate experience and action. To date, however, research on technology-facilitated violence has not focused on the role technological mediation plays in acts of violence facilitated through technology. In response to this lacuna, this article develops a theoretical framework and typology for understanding the role technological mediation plays in producing technology-facilitated violence. First, drawing on postphenomenological theories of technology, we argue that technology-facilitated violence is best understood as a form of ‘harm translation,’ where a technology’s affordances and other properties ‘invite’ an individual to actualize harmful ends. Then, distinguishing between four modes of harm translation, we construct a typology for analysing the intersections between user intention and technological design that, together, facilitate violence. We argue that by attending to these distinctions our typology helps researchers and designers identify and address the specific causal dynamics involved in producing different kinds of technology-facilitated harm.

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