Technology-facilitated violence: A conceptual review

Mitchell, M., Wood, J., O’Neill, T., Wood, M., Pervan, F., Anderson, B., & Arpke-Wales, W. (2022). Technology-facilitated violence: A conceptual review. Criminology & Criminal Justice.


Open access: No

Notes: There are many (one could even say, too many) definitions concerning violence in digital spaces: online harassment, cyberbullying, online hate speech, flamming, etc. In this paper, Mitchell et al. explore one particular term that is being increasingly used: technology-facilitated violence. By conducting a systematic review, the authors outline three approaches in which the term is commonly approached: 1) use (technology as passive), 2) extension (technology as amplification), and 3) mediation (technology as active). Drawing on this exploration, the authors propose a new definition of the term: “Technology-facilitated violence refers to acts of harm that are brought about when technical artefacts, through making a harmful end easier or possible to achieve, invite actors holding this end to actualise it using the artefact” (p. 15). This term, while useful to understand the complex interaction between humans and machines in enacting harm, leaves aside the role of platforms in actively enacting harm through processes such as automation and extractivism.

Abstract: This article provides a conceptual review of the term ‘technology-facilitated violence’. In the last decade, discussion of technology-facilitated violence has become commonplace in criminological and social scientific discourses. Yet, scholars have not settled on what this term means or the kind of relationship between technology and violence it infers. Addressing this ambiguity, we review how scholars have conceptualised technology-facilitated violence, evaluate the adequacy of those conceptualisations, and develop strategies to improve them. To do so, we bring the philosophy of technology into conversation with the scholarship on technology-facilitated violence to identify the latent theories of technology that underpin existing definitions of technology-facilitated violence. Then, synthesising insights from these two fields of scholarship, we generate a new definition of technology-facilitated violence that builds on the strengths of existing definitions while avoiding their key limitations. This new definition and the conceptual review that informs it should improve scholarly understandings of technology-facilitated violence and help design better strategies to address its harms. Hence, we conclude by emphasising the importance of this kind of conceptual and synthetic work and the value it offers scholars concerned with improving both theory and practice.

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