Technology-Facilitated Violence: A Critical Concept Explication
Dr Mark Wood3, Dr Matthew Mitchell1, Mr Jackson Wood1, Mr Flynn Pervan1, Ms Briony Anderson1, Mr William Arpke-Wales1, Ms Tullia O’Neill2
1The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 2Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, 3Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
This article evaluates and refines criminology’s understanding of how technology can facilitate violence. In the last decade, the term “technology-facilitated violence” has become increasingly popular in criminology. However, criminologists have not precisely delineated the relationship between technology and violence that this term infers. We address this shortcoming in three stages. First, we conduct a scoping review of technology-facilitated violence literature to determine how technology-facilitated violence has been defined. Second, we identify the latent theories of technology that underpin these definitions and illustrate their limitations for understanding how technology can facilitate violence. Finally, in response to these limitations, we synthesize insights from the philosophy of technology and postphenomenology to offer criminologists a more precise way to conceptualize technology-facilitated violence. On this basis, we argue that accounting for the causative role technologies can play in facilitating violence requires conceptualizing technology-facilitated violence as an example of what can be termed “harm translation,” where technologies “invite” individuals to actualize a harmful aim or end. By distinguishing between four modes of harm translation—(1) scripted translation, (2) unscripted translation, (3) reorienting translation, and (4) surplus translation—we offer criminologists a useful framework for studying the different ways technology can facilitate violence. Most significantly, this framework allows and encourages criminologists to consider how technological design can causally contribute to harm.
Flynn Pervan is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne. His research traces the origins and impacts of criminological theory. His thesis is critiquing the deployment of structure and agency as conceptual schemas in criminology. His areas of interest include criminological theory, historical criminology, and conceptual analysis.
Jackson Wood is a PhD candidate at The University of Melbourne. His thesis is critiquing the concept of radicalisation, with a strong grounding in qualitative data. He is working on a thesis observing and analysing far-right Discord groups. His areas of interest include digital criminology, theories of radicalisation, and theories of technology.