Our digital infrastructures are complicit in the problem of online abuse and harassment. Researchers across a variety of fields have recognized this and have begun to study how digital environments enable and sometimes even prop up bad actors. This presentation examines some of the historical underpinnings of what Brown calls “hateware,” computational environments that employ policies, algorithms, and designs that enable, actively encourage, and sometimes even directly participate in abuse or harassment. He turns to a previous technology, the telephone, in order to better understand the intertwined histories of harassment and technological infrastructure.
James J. Brown, Jr. is Director of the Digital Studies Center (DiSC) at Rutgers University-Camden where he is also Associate Professor of English. He conducts research in the areas of digital rhetoric, electronic literature, and software studies, and his work has been published in journals such as Philosophy & Rhetoric, Computers and Composition, and College Composition and Communication. His book Ethical Programs: Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software examines the ethical and rhetorical possibilities of a number of networked software platforms, and he is currently at work on a project called Hateware that addresses how digital infrastructures enable and sometimes even encourage online abuse and harassment.