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Tackling Digital Incivility on Social Media (Advert Reference: SF19/BL/MOS/CHAN)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Digital incivility (DI) on social media has emerged as an alarming societal issue. DI is a form of aggressive behaviour in online social interactions, such as leaving hostile commenting and rude critiques in threads. Given the predominant use of social media in many aspects of our lives, this is a particularly important threat across macro and micro levels. Specifically, while positive social interactions serve to retain users on social networking platforms, negative interactions drive them away. The rising phenomenon of DI not only induces unpleasant experiences to users but also erodes the sustainability of social media.

This project aims to investigate the occurrence and intervention of DI from a sociotechnical perspective (Sarker et al. 2019). Particularly the occurrence of DI could be attributed to the “fast technology” design philosophy (Hallnäs and Redström 2001), which aims at enabling efficient social interactions. Such philosophy can be found in features like pop-up notification, which takes time away for self-reflection, prompt users to react impulsively, leading to DI.

This project is multidisciplinary in nature and seeks to examine two research questions drawing on the literature on information systems, psychology, and design science:

1. What are the sociotechnical causes and behavioural mechanisms leading to DI?
2. How could social media interfaces be redesigned to mitigate DI?

A mixed-method approach, including the use of qualitative (e.g., case study or focus group) and quantitative methods (e.g., survey or experiment), will serve best to address the above questions. Empirical data will be collected from general social media users.

This project is supervised by Dr Tommy Chan.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see:

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF19/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend.


Hallnäs, L., and Redström, J. 2001. "Slow Technology–Designing for Reflection," Personal and ubiquitous computing (5:3), pp. 201-212.

Sarker, S., Chatterjee, S., Xiao, X., and Elbanna, A. 2019. "The Sociotechnical Axis of Cohesion for the Is Discipline: Its Historical Legacy and Its Continued Relevance," MIS Quarterly (43:3), pp. 695-719.

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