Digital Hate and the impact of the ‘Impact Agenda’ on public academics

Hannah Yelin

Digital Hate and the impact of the ‘Impact Agenda’ on public academics

Small Group Project 2022-23

We examine cultures of digital hate as experienced by a community under pressure from employers to be visible online. The UK government has precipitated a shift towards ‘public academia’ and the ‘impact agenda’, through the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Research Councils (UKRI) funding criteria. Academics are therefore increasingly encouraged to maintain a public profile to disseminate work through traditional and social media. Given that the risks of visibility are unevenly distributed in ways that exacerbate harm to already marginalised groups, we explore whether visibility exposes academics to the kinds of online misogyny, racism, ableism and transphobia that characterise cultures of online hate. 
This interdisciplinary project brings together media, cultural, feminist, celebrity, communications and education studies, sociology, and the digital humanities to understand how digital hate functions intersectionally to create real world harms. No existing work on digital hate accounts for the diversity of the academic community, and therefore we cannot adequately account for how certain voices are being excluded from public debate. We challenge popular notions that visibility is its own reward. We reject the ubiquity of the positive framing with which ‘impact’ is commonly discussed. We demand that universities take responsibility for those they put in harm’s way. We face the rising tide of populism, online discrimination, and anti-intellectualism head on.
This project expands on our previous work reflecting on our own experiences of digital hate, through a survey and interviews with academics on the intersecting hostilities they face. Funding would provide support to analyse that data, and holding consultation and co-creation event(s) with policy makers and digital media sector workers to collectively devise resources and guidelines for tackling the pervasive social problem of digital hate. These recommendations will inform conversations around impact work and encourage universities to take responsibility for staff whose public profiles benefit the institution.

Contacting Fellows

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