Progetti di ricerca

ADVOOCATE - Addressing visual imagery in online harassment and/or offline abuse against women (photo-) journalists: Developing guidelines for comprehensive policies

Ambito disciplinare Macroarea 3

Area scientifica Area 16 - Scienze politiche e sociali

Tipologia finanziamento PROGETTI DI RICERCA DI ATENEO (Finanziamenti di Ateneo)

Tipo di progetto Internazionale

Stato progetto Aperto

Ruolo nel progetto Capofila

Responsabilità scientifica Coordinatore

Data avvio: 1 June 2019

Data termine: 31 August 2021

Durata: 24 mesi

Importo: 100.000€


University of Gothenburg


This study takes the definition of Violence Against Women (VAW) by the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Istanbul Convention, whose notion is used interchangeably with that of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), to address its main question: What is the place of visual imagery – still and moving images and even memes, to online harassment against women (photo-) journalists, i.e., journalists and photojournalists, and under which conditions online abuse might be entangled with offline aggressive behaviour? Scholarly studies focus on the challenges to women (photo-) journalists, however the ways in which VAW has been addressed - by focusing either on online or on offline or on visual, have not taken into consideration all aspects together and in their (possible) interconnections. This study combines surveys, in-depth interviews and focus groups, also making use of innovative computational methods. By employing a comparative and an intersectional approach, this project integrates a gender-based investigation, focusing on European countries, and in particular Italy and Sweden. The understanding of the entanglement of on- and offline harassment combined with the centrality of the visual to abuse is an emerging area of research, and this project will develop new frameworks for analysis and new knowledge thus producing scientific, political and social innovation. It will also promote the global discussion on the prevention of VAW, one of the specific objectives of the new CoE Gender Equality Strategy (2018-2023), which is in line with the UN CEDAW, the Beijing PFA, and the UN 2030 Agenda SDGs. This research is consistent with the European Parliament, which calls for action to prevent new forms of VAW, such as online harassment. This research is relevant for (photo-) journalists, media professional bodies and associations, as the harm to women media professionals might prevent them from realising their career goals and making a thorough contribution to society. 


Online harassment and abuse cannot be addressed as just a matter of how the ICTs should be regulated by promoting safeguards for internet use and safety, because this approach ignores "systematic gender disparities that characterize the media sector." The overall goal of this study is to look beyond an approach focused on how to regulate hardware and software, their architecture and uses, to better understand the constitutive role of the visual in negotiating meaning within a context of unequal power structures that characterise contemporary media environments and structures. The specific objectives are:
1. Understand the circumstances under which online abuse is intertwined with offline aggressive behaviour regarding women media professionals, and the place of the visual in this context;
2. Map and reflect on existing mechanisms that have been put in place to address these forms of violence;
3. Raise awareness of media professionals, managers and decision-makers on VAW;
4. Develop the principles, guidelines and assessment criteria for comprehensive policy integration on the centrality of the visual to VAW.

Piano delle attività:

This study adopts a multi-methods approach, combining surveys, in- depth interviews and focus groups, also making use of some computational methods. By employing a comparative and an intersectional approach, this study integrates a gender- based investigation, focusing on European countries, and in particular Italy and Sweden.
In the initial months, I will do the literature review and also map, identify and contact my potential interviewees in order to proceed further, as follows:
Online survey (in months 4-7): The survey seeks to elicit responses from women (photo-) journalists based in Europe that will provide a picture of on- and/or offline abuse, and the place of visual imagery within this process; whether images were used as a tool for abuse or whether the abuse happened during photojournalists' working routines. The questionnaire will also evaluate whether there is intersectional discrimination, i.e., whether age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation or gender identity, makes women particularly vulnerable for GBV.
In-depth interviews: I shall spend six months in total conducting in-depth interviews with key female (photo-) journalists that I will contact through organisations in Sweden (in months 9-11) and Italy (in months 13-15). These are aimed at investigating the conditions under which online harassment might be entangled with offline abuse and vice-versa, and the place of images to GBV against women (photo-) journalists.
Focus groups through VE (in months 11-13): I shall spend three months doing Virtual Exchanges with both male/female (photo-) journalists, media managers and policy-makers in order to: a) identify the gaps in the legal frameworks on VAW in the workplace at national level, b) existing policies on media and gender equality at the level of individual organisations and c) current practices to support (photo-) journalist women exposed to online/offline violence.