Category Archives: In the news

Feeding the trolls? – The roles and benefits of online trolling

New University of Canterbury research into the behaviour of online trolls has revealed the many actors involved and a surprising number of benefits to trolling – and not just for the trolls.

When University of Canterbury (UC) doctoral student Maja Golf-Papez left a marketing career in Slovenia to start her research into mischief-making consumer behaviours among online trolls, she didn’t expect to be entertained or find benefits to trolling.

A postgraduate student with the College of Business and Law, Ms Golf-Papez initially thought trolling and cyberbullying were similar. She has come to realise they describe two distinct behaviours that need to be differentiated.

“Trolling is when someone is deceptive and mischievous. A troll typically has no intent to cause harm but is trying to provoke a reaction. Whereas cyberbullying is targeted with the purpose of causing harm to an individual person.”

In the pursuit of understanding trolling behaviour, she sought out trolls to interview. As she did so, she was trolled many times and found trolls had been removed or banned from pages before she got a chance to interact with them.

“Good trolls are elusive and, I find, highly intelligent characters. They know how to look after themselves and operate within but on the fringes of the law.”

Once she tracked them down, Ms Golf-Papez started her data collection by interviewing celebrity trolls.

As with other groups in all areas of society, a certain level of celebrity has been attached to individuals in the trolling community. Some of these trolls have half a million followers, who are eager to see what they’ll do next, encourage their behaviour, dress themselves as targets and ‘reward’ trolls in the online currency of likes, comments and reactions, both negative and positive.

From these interviews, five case studies were established highlighting different types of trolling behaviour across different channels.

As another part of her research, Maja interacted with some targets, bystanders and online moderators, and conducted more than 300 hours of online observation of trolling across different channels, including gaming platforms, forums, social media channels and news platforms.

Ms Golf-Papez has published a paper about her research in the Journal of Marketing Management and says she has been surprised by the benefits of trolling she has found. A number of trolls are gaining financial benefits from view rates and advertising space as well as conventional business transactions, she says.

“Some more risky brands are paying trolls to pose as customer service reps to respond to complaints and questions in a way the brand couldn’t or wouldn’t usually.”

In a society constantly in need of entertainment, Ms Golf-Papez’s research considers whether trolling has become just another form of entertainment. While audience members find trolling amusing, some trolling acts cause problems for the targets, firms and online moderators.

Ms Golf-Papez hopes her findings will help to differentiate the behaviours of trolls and cyberbullies, inform education around what, if anything, targets or online moderators should do in response to online trolls and ultimately inform policy makers when they are writing laws around online behaviour.

Her academic supervisor and paper co-author Associate Professor Ekant Veer says Ms Golf-Papez’s research explores a relatively underdeveloped consumer practice – online mischief making.

“We know little about what motivates online mischief makers, their drivers, and the community that surrounds them, supports them and encourages them in their practices.”

Associate Professor Veer says Ms Golf-Papez’s work has the potential to show not only that actor network theory can play a real role in understanding online phenomena like trolling, but also that trolling is a multifaceted practice that has both positives and negatives.

“Her work is already challenging the way trolls are defined and the way in which they are different from cyberbullies or other online negative behaviours.

“UC has provided a place and space for innovative, alternative and often risky research like this, which will mean our researchers will continue to achieve more than in a restrictive system.”

UC doctoral students win 2018 Postgraduate Science Scholarship

Congratulations to UC doctoral students Jonathan Dash and Trevor Best, who have been named recipients of the Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI)’s Postgraduate Science Scholarship for 2018.

As doctoral students, the total value of their scholarship will be up to $50,000 to support their primary industry research.

For Jonathan this means funding to assist his research on developing automated methods for the detection and monitoring of wilding pines using remotely sensed data.

And for Trevor the money will be used to fund his research on stress in forestry workers.

For more about this year’s scholarship recipients, see the Government’s media release here>

UC recipients in 2018 Queens Birthday Honours

Please join us in congratulating those staff, alumni and alumnae who exemplify our vision of tangata tu tangata ora, people prepared to make a difference, and have been appointed to The New Zealand Order of Merit in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Mr Nigel Hampton
For services to the Law
Alumnus: 1965 LLB

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Mrs Gillian Gemming
For services to Hockey
Alumna: 1972 BA Geography

Mr Gordon Hosking
For services to conservation
Alumnus:1968 BSc Science

Mr Peter Lorimer
For services to the State
Alumnus: 1968 BA Economics
1969 LLB
1969 MA Economics

Mr Michael O’Brien
For services to social policy and education
Alumnus: 1974 BA Sociology

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit 
Professor Elisabeth McDonald

For services to the law and education
Staff: UC School of Law

Mr Andrew Dellaca
For services to children and sports governance
Alumnus: 1977 Bcom

Miss Andrea Hewitt
For services to triathlon
Alumna:2004 Bcom/Athlete

Ms Gabrielle Huria
For services to Māori and governance
Alumna: 1986 BA Sociology

Ms Margaret Jefferies
For services to the community
Alumna: 1966 BA Geography
1968 MA Geography
1968 Teachers College Diploma

Ms Tracy Phillips
For services to the New Zealand Police and the community
Alumna: 1989 BA Psychology

Dr Katherine Saville-Smith
For services to seniors and housing
Alumna: 1978 BA History
1980 GradDipJ Journalism
1982 MA (Hons) Sociology

The Very Reverend Pamela Tankersley
For services to the Presbyterian Church and the community
Alumna: 1970 Teachers College Diploma

Mrs Julie Wylie
For services to musical play therapy
Alumna: 1980 CertLibStud Liberal Studies
1985 BA Music
1986 DipT Secondary
2003 MusB(Hons) Music

Queen’s Service Medal
Ms Alison Ross
For services to conservation
Alumna: 1975 MZ (Hons) Religious Studies

Ms Rosemarie Searle
For services to the community and sport
Alumna: 1989 DipT Primary (Education)

Applications open for Creative New Zealand programme

New Zealand artists will continue to be inspired by our natural environment and cultural heritage, with the continuation of a successful Creative New Zealand partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Wild Creations builds on an artist-in-residence programme of the same name offered from 2002 to 2012. A re-invigorated Wild Creations, broader in scope, was offered in 2017 as a pilot and with some refinements it will be continued for another two years. Applications open today.

Cath Cardiff, Creative New Zealand Senior Manager – Arts Development Services, says the pilot programme attracted a lot of interest, with a number of high quality applications received.

“The three successful applicants submitted innovative proposals. They have made or are making high-quality artwork inspired by their experiences that will be enjoyed by many.”

DOC Director, National Operations, Hilary Aikman said Wild Creations helps to connect more Kiwis to our natural environment and cultural heritage.

“The work of these talented artists is giving DOC great opportunities to connect more New Zealanders to conservation stories through art.”

The initiative offers a minimum of two artists the opportunity to experience DOC environments and / or programmes between December 2018 and June 2019, as inspiration for new art work.

Wild Creations is a fusion of conservation and creativity, supporting artists to be inspired by experiencing the places, people, and stories of New Zealand’s unique environment and cultural heritage. They may work in any artform or area of arts practice supported by Creative New Zealand.

To apply, visit the Creative New Zealand website.

Extraordinary future for technology with UC beginnings

As a result of carbon fibre electrode technology initially developed by Associate Professor John Abrahamson, there will soon be a UC connection to hybrid vehicles manufactured internationally.

Prof Abrahamson tells us more about his technology and the work of local company, ArcActive who will be developing it with American partners with an eye to the future of sustainable vehicles.

Q1: What was the original technology?

The original technology revolved around processing fabric made of carbon fibre in such a way that it enhanced its usefulness for building electrodes.  Using processed carbon fabric in an electrode for a lead-acid battery enhanced the effective surface for producing and absorbing electrical current.

Q2:  What made you realise that there was commercial potential?

In 2008 we did an international trip talking to firms with a possible interest in our technology, and had keen interest from a battery maker who turned up to see us with senior business staff in the room.  We then checked out the battery use economics, which were promising.

We initially scoped out where the material could possibly have a use, and then did some initial experiments to give us a sense of the technical performance we could achieve. From this data, we arranged meetings with numerous companies in a variety of industries to discuss what we had, and gauge their interest.

From this visit, we identified a new way of using the material that opened up a new technical avenue to explore. This ultimately became the product and market that is the basis of the announced partnership. 

There are many things that need to be answered to know that you have something with commercial potential, which is why it has taken 10 years to go from initial idea to partnership:

  1. enhanced performance on a technical attribute that solves an unmet need,
  2. Intellectual Property: both Freedom to Operate and your own patents,
  3. consistency in performance,
  4. manufacturing techniques suited to high volume manufacturing settings,
  5. partners to manufacture the product,
  6. a supply chain that can deliver material in a timely/quality and cost appropriate way,
  7. a product cost that allows everyone to make money and still have the customer buy your product,
  8. an investment requirement that suits doing this work in New Zealand (i.e. is not particularly capital intensive).

So, it is a long and somewhat iterative process to ensure that what you have really does have commercial potential, but the starting point is ‘are we solving a major problem for someone?’.

The more important and difficult the problem is to solve, the better the chance you have – and there is no substitute for meeting potential customers to work this out.

The thing we have observed is that if you have the “market pain” and market size well established, investors will be tolerant about technical risk – in their eyes, this becomes a risk worth taking.

Q3: What encouragement or advice would you give to other researchers / innovators / students who are wondering if their work has a commercial application?

Talk to possible commercial collaborators about the pain in the market, even though this may be risky.  Choose carefully who you talk to.

Q4: What was your reaction to news of the two-year commercial deal outlined in the NBR?

It is very pleasing from a number of viewpoints.  A major one is that use of our technology in the batteries of hybrid vehicles is likely to bring about a major reduction in the fuel used for transport, worldwide, and this deal is a significant step towards that result.