Understanding the Bystander Audience in Online Incivility Encounters: Conceptual Issues and Future Research Questions

Kim, Yeweon
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This paper presents a theoretical exploration of how and why the 1960’s bystander theory is a valuable lens through which to study contemporary uncivil online communication, particularly in user commenting spaces. Based on the literature on bystander intervention, which includes extensive field and experimental research on bystander behavior in emergency situations, this paper understands non-target readers of uncivil comments as the bystander audience, which is made up of people who encounter an emerging form of online emergencies and can decide whether and how to intervene. In doing so, some particularities of online affordances are taken into account to predict how they might challenge the application of traditional bystander literature. Through such considerations, this paper identifies a set of future research questions about the underlying conditions, causes, and consequences of intervention against online incivility, and then concludes with some limitations and implications of the proposed approach.
Mediated Conversation, bystander audience, bystander effect, online incivility, theoretical proposal, user comment
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