Research profile

+ Last updated December, 2023 +

Dr Travis Noakes' interdisciplinary scholarship draws on insights from communication and media studies, and links these to contributions from other fields, such as sociology. An overarching focus of his qualitative research is linking the micro-level practices in online content creation (OCC) to social influences at meso- and macro levels. Travis's completed research projects have explored: OCC by high school visual arts learners and media studies university students, academic cyberbullying, and the implications of difference in qualitative research software for live Twitter (now X) data analysis. 

Currently, Travis is involved in building CPUT's capacity for researching digital voice on X via the Social Media Laboratory for Internet Research (SMILR) based at the Younglings Academy. The Noakes Foundation funded the establishment of SMILR in 2021 to aid postgrad research into digital voice under the Academic Free Speech (AFSDV) research theme (see

Travis’ portfolio showcases a profound engagement with key issues at the intersection of digital media, culture, and education. His innovative research approaches and the development of novel frameworks have made significant contributions to the field, enriching our understanding of OCC and its broader implications. His work is not only academically robust but also possesses practical relevance, marking him as a notable scholar in his field of inquiry:


Travis’ past research (2009-20) focused on the productions of South African online content creators (OCC) and how their agency is supported, or hampered, though varied cultural, economic and social influences. While OCC is extensively described for the informal and academic contexts of the developed world, little had been written concerning academic contexts in Africa. 

Travis’ research has contributed to closing this gap. So far, his scholarship has resulted in three new frameworks and seventeen case studies for OCC:

i. Twelve learner case studies were developed following the ‘Capital meets Capabilities’ framework (2018, 2019);

ii.  Three in-depth case studies addressed Media Studies students’ informal engagement with Connected Learning (2013, 2016);

iii. Four case studies were written for a framework for analysing and producing argument in data visualisation (2020, 2022); 

iv. One case study for an Emeritus Professor’s negotiations of cyber harassment followed the ‘Online Academic Bullying Routine Activities Theory’ (OABRAT) framework (2021).

i) ‘Capital meets Capabilities’ framework

Travis developed the ‘Capital meets Capabilities’ framework during his PhD (2018) for linking descriptions of young people’s e-portfolio curations to the opportunities in their different social contexts, or obstacles that they might be able to workaround, or not. These have included OCC producers in marginalised settings, who are often overlooked in communication and media studies research. Notably, the cases for three young black women from the townships at an under-resourced school (2019) were described in the Learning, Media and Technology journal’s special issue, ‘Global technologies, local practices: redefining digital education with marginalised voices’. This article has achieved 3 Web of Science citations.

ii) Online content creation by Media Studies students as Connected Learning

There are also few case studies for how the everyday lives of African university students are tied to their OCC roles. Together with Professors Lara Czerniewicz and Cheryl Brown, Travis wrote about three such young content creators (2013). As the case studies spanned digital practices that were informal and extracurricular yet peer-supported, as well as interest-driven and academically oriented, the pedagogical framework of Connected Learning proved an appropriate heuristic (2016). Their research suggested that being a digital creator gave these students a competitive edge in our globally competitive society. This article featured in another special issue of Learning, Media and Technology titled ‘Social Media and Education, Now the Dust Has Settled’. This special issue was republished as a book (2019). Their article has achieved 14 Web of Science citations and over 2,000 views.

iii) Framework for analysing and producing argument in data visualisation

Professor Arlene Archer and Dr Noakes proposed a framework for analysing and producing argument in data visualisation (2020) to help teach students to become critical citizens via infographic poster production and analysis. This framework informed changes to a blended-learning course that better supported students’ development as critical designers and engaged citizens (2022). The first chapter on this framework was published in ‘Data visualization in society’ (2020). A follow-up chapter has recently been approved for publication in ‘Learning design voices’, which is scheduled for publication early in 2022. The initial chapter has been cited seven times on Google Scholar, and recommended twice on ResearchGate.

iv) Online academic bullying routine activities theory (OABRAT) framework

As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CPUT, Travis’ research shifted to focusing on OCC by health experts who take to digital platforms for advocating the insulin resistance model of chronic ill health (IRMCIH) paradigm. This research continues to address OCC, but by health experts, and spotlights two neglected negative phenomena in Higher Education (HE): (1) the impact of scientific suppression of academic free speech in HE’s Health Sciences and (2) cyber harassment from HE employees. There has been very little conceptual or empirical research concerning academic employees who victimise their peers and others online. Such attacks may serve as new form of intellectual harassment and scientific suppression when targeting whistleblowers and dissenting scholars.

In developing one such case with his father, Professor Tim Noakes, they developed an original definition for the negative phenomenon of online academic bullying (OAB). OAB is proposed to be 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. The authors also developed an OAB Routine Activities Theory framework to assist the recipients of OAB, and cyberbullying researchers, with understanding OAB’s distinctive characteristics. For example, hypercritical academic bloggers whose chains of re-publication become sourced for one-sided, defamatory online "profiles". This article was downloaded 2152 times in just twelve months, ranking in the Heliyon journal’s top 20 percentile of papers. The article's Altmetric results on PlumX and Dimensions confirm that this paper is well-shared on social media.

v) A critique of the "Infodemic" research agenda

Just as orthodox critics against the insulin resistance paradigm have continued to shutdown opportunities for its discussion in Higher Education, so have international health authorities behind the COVID-19 counter-measures seem to have stifled any formal debates regarding theiur guidelines’ efficacy. Instead, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has sponsored an infodemic research agenda that seeks to frame dissent as “disinformation” at best, “malinformation” at worst. In response, Dr David Bell, Professor Tim Noakes and Travis wrote a critical opinion piece (2022) that explored how 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. 

vi) Implications of noteworthy disparities between CAQDAS tools for live Twitter data analysis

Little has been written concerning the research implications of differences in Qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) packages’ functionalities, and how such disparities might contribute to contrasting analytical opportunities. Travis led a co-authored paper to address this regarding live Twitter data imports. This article's findings may help guide Twitter social science researchers and others in QDAS tool selection.


Dr Travis Noakes is assisting with capacity building at CPUT by helping it to support postgrad students' qualitative studies into social networks. He has assisted Pinky Motshware (a PhD student of Dr Pat Harpur's) in developing her PhD proposal. Further, Pinky is currently using the Social Media Laboratory for Internet Research (SMILR) at Younglings Africa to do X (formerly Twitter) data extractions for her research.

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