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Stalked by Our Own Devices: Cyberbullying as a Boundary Crossing Behavior

Abstract

The goal of this paper was to explore the phenomenon of cyberbullying using a sociomaterialist sensitivity. Through the process, we discovered that cyberbullying is very much postdigital in nature. As part of a larger study, the data was collected via two semi-structured focus groups with sixteen youth, one focus group comprising four adults, and nine individual interviews with school and professional service personnel in Saskatchewan, Canada. The data was recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed for indications of (1) boundary crossings and (2) spatial, verbal, digital, social, and temporal characteristics of the crossings. We noted how cyberbullying crosses boundaries of location (school, home, and extra-curricular activities), time (time of day and time of year), age groups, cultural groups, technological platforms, and professional roles (law enforcement, principals, teachers, parents, and children). The results were examined relative to three relational patterns: networks (patterns of connectedness), fluids (patterns of variation), and regions (patterns of containment) (Sørensen 2009). We conclude that cyberbullying as a behavior has strength due to its fluidity (i.e., continuous mutation and exchange of members without loss of identity) and that digital technologies hasten cyberbullying through the ambiguation of boundaries (breakdown of regions). Digital anonymity may hinder the attribution of responsibility (identification of networks and participants) because, as a postdigital phenomenon, physical and digital boundaries that we ‘normally’ assign to our world lack clear differentiation. This paper provides an example of how a postdigital sensitivity can be applied in an empirical study and how we can gain new insights from engaging with research from a postdigital perspective.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research, University of Saskatchewan for assistance with data collection and transcription services.

Funding

This [output] draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada. Ce [résultat] s’appuie sur des recherches soutenues par le Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines.

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Correspondence to Marguerite Koole.

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Koole, M., Clark, S., Hellsten-Bzovey, LA. et al. Stalked by Our Own Devices: Cyberbullying as a Boundary Crossing Behavior. Postdigit Sci Educ 3, 464–490 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00210-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00210-8

Keywords

  • Boundary objects
  • Cyberbullying
  • Postdigital
  • Sociomaterial