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+ Last updated December, 2023 +

Travis' interdisciplinary scholarship draws on insights from communication and media studies, and links these to contributions from other fields, such as sociology. His previous qualitative research has linked OCC’s micro-level practices by high school visual arts learners and media studies students to social influences at meso- and macro levels. His research has also explored how health experts negotiate academic cyberbullying and censorship. 

Capital and capabilities framework (2009-18)

Travis’ PhD in Media Studies explored how visual arts learners’ contrasting circumstances in Cape Town shaped the different repertoires they curated in showcase electronic learning portfolios (e-portfolios). His thesis focused on answering two research questions:

RQ1 What digital self-presentation and organisation choices do visual arts students make in their e-portfolios?
RQ2 How do visual arts e-portfolios and visual culture repertoires relate to individual habitus and spaces of production?

The study made a valuable contribution in documenting the practices by students from a broader range of economic backgrounds than those typically described in e-portfolio (Owen, 2009), multimodal (Jewitt, 2008) or new media research studies (Buckingham, 2009. Ito et al. 2010). For answering RQ1, Travis developed a new method of content analysis for exploring young people’s changes to their self-presentations and portfolio curations over time. It also supported the identification of different patterns in students’ e-portfolio achievements at two sites. His longitudinal research explored teens’ creative personas and the social semiotic spaces they drew on revealing how the extent of teens’ self-presentation and portfolios were tied to the cultural repertoires that their school and home supported.

A ‘Capital meets Capabilities’ framework (2018) was proposed for linking young people’s e-portfolio curations to the opportunities in their different social contexts, or obstacles that they might be able to workaround, or might serve as gatekeepers. Combining Sen’s capability approach with Bourdieusian cultural sociology supported the development of twelve rich case studies that linked young people’s practices to social influences.

Upfront critical reflections on educational action research (2021-22)

Little educational action research (EAR) has been done in African schools for facilitating students’ engagements with OCC or Connected Learning. In addition to flagging this concern, Travis’ research has also spotlighted a novel methodological challenge. Although his PhD fieldwork was successful, as an EAR project it was ultimately a social failure for increasing the participatory divide between an elite school’s arts students and their peers at other schools. This inspired the question:

RQ3 What are implications of being more critical in multi-site EAR projects involving OCC?

To answer this question, Travis is writing a manuscript that spotlights a novel negative outcome that emerged after his PhD’s fieldwork. Its EAR intervention grew the participatory divide by assisting already-advantaged students with further opportunities. Arts students at the elite school continue to experiment with OCC in class and are supported with CL, unlike peers at other schools. Travis' draft flags the difficulties of minimising disruption with OCC interventions. He urges researchers involved with multi-site, EAR interventions with OCC to consider the risk that their interventions might contribute to inequality. In particular, researchers could list potential types of EAR failure upfront, rather than simply strategising around potential successes. Scholars are also alerted to the importance of documenting failed EAR interventions. This subject is seldom tackled despite its potential role in raising awareness for scholars regarding interventions that are best avoided.

OCC by African students as connected learning (2011-2016)

Little too has been shared concerning OCC in the everyday lives of African university students. As a research assistant (2011-13) for the Student ICT Access and Use project, Travis identified three students who were unusual in being heavily involved in OCC. He suggested Connected Learning (CL) as an appropriate heuristic (2013). Together with Professors Lara Czerniewicz and Cheryl Brown they worked to answer the question: 

RQ4 Do the heuristics of CL apply for OCC in the everyday lives of African university students?

CL has largely been applied in US high schools for exploring students’ work as OCC in diverse roles. We showed that this framework also suited developing case studies for African students leveraging well-resourced university environments. This pedagogical framework proved apt for describing students’ interest-driven and academically- oriented OCC practices, as well as their peer-supported and extracurricular/informal ones (2016).

Thematic coding for Student ICT Access and Use project 2012
Thematic coding for Student ICT Access and Use project 2012

A framework for teaching argument in data visualisation (2017-2022)

Travis’ lecturing and research at UCT also contributed to a novel framework for analysing and producing argument in data visualisation (2020). This framework was developed in response to the question:

RQ5 What are the semiotic and rhetorical strategies for realising argument in data visualisations produced by second year journalism students?

They found that students as novice designers faced many challenges in preparing academic arguments as poster designers. In response, the authors proposed a framework that students and scholars might use for making sounder academic arguments via data visualisations. This framework was taught to journalism students in 2018. 

Archer and Noakes’ follow-up chapter focussed on answering the question:

RQ6 How might the framework for analysing and producing argument in data visualisation contribute to informing the teaching of a data visualisation design course?

They described how teaching the framework and other curricular changes supported two students with developing meta-languages of critique and argument in their design of infographic posters (2022).

Distinguishing online academic bullying (2019+)

Travis' PostDoc (2019-2020) researched how the shift of academic discourse to an online space without guardians has given motivated academic cyberbullies an opportunity to harass susceptible recipients. This research was inspired by a dissident scientist's example in experiencing academic mobbing (Noakes and Sboros, 2017, 2019) and cyber harassment from academic colleagues. In doing a literature review of academic cyberbullying, Professor Tim Noakes and Travis were surprised to find that research into digital forms of intellectual harassment by academic cyberbullies was non-existent (2020). In response, they developed the research question:

 RQ7 What is a theoretically grounded conceptualisation of OAB?

As a pathfinder project, the authors used the Emeritus Professor’s extreme case as a convenience sample. The key online communication episodes that he was involved in between 2010 to 2020 were researched for identifying different forms of cyber harassment. Simultaneously, an in-depth literature review of academic bullying and cyber harassment informed the development of an unambiguous OAB definition and a Routine Activities Theory (RAT) framework that supports a reporting instrument:

To provide an definition of OAB for researchers, the authors proposed that it is ‘a drawn-out situation in which its recipient experiences critique online by employees in HE that is excessive, one-sided and located outside of typical scholarly debate and accepted standards for its field’. This definition was based on extant conceptualisations of academic bullying that have focused on aggression and incivility among faculty members (Keashly & Neuman, 2010).  

The OABRAT conceptual framework proved useful for describing the cyber harassment from academics using the example of an Emeritus Professor’s experiences. The authors discussed how this example might also prove useful to those facing online harassment from employees in Higher Education. Noakes and Noakes made the OABRAT questionnaire available online as a reporting instrument for recipients to use. Through answering its questions affirmatively and describing their experiences of OAB characteristics, victims can generate a report that flags how their OAB experiences are separate from pro-social debate and critique.

A critique of the World Health Organisation (WHO)'s infodemic research agenda (2022)

Dr David Bell, Professor Tim Noakes and Travis wrote an opinion piece that raised several constructive criticisms of the World Health Organisation (WHO) infodemic research agenda. 

The global health crisis of COVID-19 presents a fertile ground for exploring the complex division of knowledge labour in a ‘post-truth’ era. Scholars have already described the example of #COVID-19 knowledge production at university. The authors' opinion piece added divisions of knowledge labour for (1) the ‘infodemic/disinfodemic research agenda’, (2) ‘mRNA vaccine research’ and (3) ‘personal health responsibility’. By focusing on the relationships between health communication, public health policy and recommended medical interventions, the opinion piece spotlights many inter- and intra-group contradictions. As an example from (1), the WHO positions itself and its partners (such as Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and public health agencies) as scientific authorities that arbitrate what constitutes medical truth or, alternatively, disinformation. In the infodemic research agenda, the WHO adopts the status of the ultimate truth provider, an organisation whose verdicts can be accepted without question. We flag that any international health organisation that wishes to be an evaluator must have the scientific expertise for managing this ongoing ‘paradox’, or irresolvable contradiction. Organisations such as the WHO may theoretically be able to convene such knowledge, but their dependency on funding from conflicted parties would normally render them ineligible to perform such a task. 

A major criticism is the infodemic research agenda's lack of earnest discussion on how health authorities’ own guidelines contribute  to mis-/mal-/disinformation. The article flags that if health authorities’ choices are not up for review and debate in the infodemic research agenda, there is a danger that a hidden goal of the @WHO #infodemic (or related #disinfodemic funders’ research) could be to direct attention away from the multiple failures of authorities in fighting pandemics with inappropriate measures. Further, rushed guidance based on weak evidence from international health organisations can perpetuate negative health and other societal outcomes, not ameliorate them.

Noteworthy disparities with four CAQDAS tools: explorations in organising live Twitter data (2023)

Qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) packages are a recent innovation. Little has been written concerning the research implications of differences in such QDAS packages’ functionalities, and how such disparities might contribute to contrasting analytical opportunities. Consequently, early-stage researchers may experience difficulties in choosing an apt QDAS for Twitter analysis. 

In response to both methodological gaps, myself, Dr Pat Harpur and Dr Corrie Uys did a software comparison across the four QDAS tools that support live Twitter data imports, namely, ATLAS.ti™, NVivo™, MAXQDA™ and QDA Miner™. The authors’ resultant QDAS experiences were compared during the first activity of a broad qualitative analysis process, ‘organising data’:

Notwithstanding large difference in QDAS pricing, it was surprising how much the tools varied for aspects of qualitative research organisation with live Twitter data. Notably, the quantum of data extracted for the same query differed, largely due to contrasts in the types and amount of data that the four QDAS could extract. Variations in how each supported visual organisation also shaped researchers’ opportunities for becoming familiar with Twitter users and their tweet content. Such disparities suggest that choosing a suitable QDAS for organising live Twitter data must dovetail with a researcher’s focus- ATLAS.ti accommodates scholars focused on wrangling unstructured data for personal meaning-making, while MAXQDA suits the mixed-methods researcher. QDA Miner’s easy-to-learn user interface suits a highly efficient implementation of methods, whilst NVivo supports relatively rapid analysis of tweet content.The article's findings may help guide Twitter social science researchers and others in QDAS tool selection.

Although the study focuses on the qualitative research organisation of live Twitter data, it has academic value for qualitative researchers using QDAS tools to organise data imported from other social media platforms. Scholars ranging from the purely qualitative to those favouring strongly mixed methods are likely to face similar enablers and constraints when organising say, Reddit forum discussions or YouTube video commentary.

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