Nicole MacDougall
Exploring Virtual Violence through solo performance

This session uses poetic inquiry and solo performance to engage with the current research I am doing for my MA thesis regarding virtual violence against women. My MA research investigates how outspoken female voices on the internet are met with hatred, harassment and violence. Online harassment, while is affects multiple groups across all genders, is a specific concern for women. Scholars have explored the ways online gender harassment is an extension of the harassment, objectification and violence women face offline. However, the internet provides a unique platform for harassment to take place and as such online harassment plays out differently. For instance, easy online access means abusive posts can be shared with a much wider audience at high speed. While it is said that the internet can provide a space to amplify a variety of voices, the existence of online gender harassment can force women to become silent online. Women who are victims of online gender harassment face real life consequences. For instance, women who choose to end their online presence because of harassment face economic consequences when virtual self-promotion is necessary to further a career. My research looks beyond economic consequences and delves into the fear women experience when they are consistently harassed online. I have examined the effectively cruel ways online harassers actively seek to silence female voices on the web. Coming to my research through creative writing has been an extremely useful tool for digesting large amounts of information and has allowed me to investigate ideas with a different perspective. The most prevalent theme that has emerged has been the concept of ‘disbelief. I see the idea of ‘disbelief’ coming through my work in two ways. First, exploring how the public and/or authorities come to not fully believe the intensity that online harassment occurs against victims. Secondly, my own disbelief that there is often minimal outrage or support for the harassment victims face. I argue that poetic inquiry allows the writing down of anger with the intent of sharing with readers this feeling of outrage.

Nicole MacDougall is a second year MA student in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. She completed her BA in English (Honours) with a certificate in theatre arts from Cape Breton University in 2013. She has ten years of experience working in community theatre where she has taken on many role including actor, writer and director. From 2010 to 2013 she was an instructor at Class Acts Drama School for youth ages 14-17. She also facilitated a girl’s theatre group which worked with preteens to create original, issue based performances pieces. In 2013, through funding from Arts Nova Scotia, MacDougall co-designed, co-facilitated and directed a community based project that tackled violence against women in Cape Breton. In 2014, she an assistant director for Erin Shield’s If We Were Birds directed by Kim Renders for the Queen’s Winter Major. Currently, her research interests include representations of violence, online harassment and virtual violence.