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Internet trolls live to upset as many people as possible, using all the technical and psychological tools at their disposal. They gleefully whip the media into a frenzy over a fake teen drug crisis; they post offensive messages on Facebook memorial pages, traumatizing grief-stricken friends and family; they use unabashedly racist language and images. They take pleasure inInternet trolls live to upset as many people as possible, using all the technical and psychological tools at their disposal. They gleefully whip the media into a frenzy over a fake teen drug crisis; they post offensive messages on Facebook memorial pages, traumatizing grief-stricken friends and family; they use unabashedly racist language and images. They take pleasure in ruining a complete stranger's day and find amusement in their victim's anguish. In short, trolling is the obstacle to a kinder, gentler Internet. To quote a famous Internet meme, trolling is why we can't have nice things online. Or at least that's what we have been led to believe. In this provocative book, Whitney Phillips argues that trolling, widely condemned as obscene and deviant, actually fits comfortably within the contemporary media landscape. Trolling may be obscene, but, Phillips argues, it isn't all that deviant. Trolls' actions are born of and fueled by culturally sanctioned impulses -- which are just as damaging as the trolls' most disruptive behaviors.Phillips describes, for example, the relationship between trolling and sensationalist corporate media -- pointing out that for trolls, exploitation is a leisure activity; for media, it's a business strategy. She shows how trolls, "the grimacing poster children for a socially networked world," align with social media. And she documents how trolls, in addition to parroting media tropes, also offer a grotesque pantomime of dominant cultural tropes, including gendered notions of dominance and success and an ideology of entitlement. We don't just have a trolling problem, Phillips argues; we have a culture problem. This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things isn't only about trolls; it's about a culture in which trolls thrive....

Title : This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture
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ISBN : 9780262028943
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
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This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-11-03 17:24

    “None of us is as cruel as all of us” – anonymous troll“I wormed my way to the heart of the crowdI was shocked to find what was allowed” – Howard DeVoto*The worst pun in the whole of the BBC is in the name of a radio programme called Thinking Allowed which is enough to make you avoid it. The second reason not to listen is the unctuous know-it-all presenter Professor Laurie Taylor, and the third reason is that it’s all about sociology (What do you get if you cross a sociologist with a Mafia don? An offer you can’t understand). Here are four recent topics, and I haven’t made them up, these are quotes from the website Vicki Harman, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London, considers the way in which middle class mothers view their children's packed lunches as a reflection of their parenting skillsSarah Neal, Reader in Sociology at the University of Surrey, discusses multicultural conviviality in coffee shopsthe social history of women only train carriages: did they promote safety or inequality?Fur, family and inheritance. Siobhan Magee, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, discusses her research into the convention of passing down fur clothes from grandmother to granddaughter in the Polish middle classI am sure Whitney Phillips has already received an invitation from Laurie to appear on Thinking Allowed because this book is pure sociology and is all about online trolling and its “relationship” with “mainstream culture”. I’M A TROLL, FOL DE ROLDefinitions are difficult in this area, especially as internet trolling has changed shape greatly since 2000. For instance, this book does not regard cyberbullying or hacking as trolling, but both play a part in trolling. Whitney Phillips’ main subject for many of these pages is 4Chan’s /b/ board, which was and maybe still is referred to as the asshole of the internet. This is where the trolls turbocharged their devilry. This is where memes were born, such as Pedobear, which was based on a Japanese character called Safety Bear. WHO ARE THE TROLLS AND WHAT DO THEY WANT?They are like 95% plus all young white privileged males. They want Lulz.WHAT IS LULZ?It’s kind of an internet “gotcha” which produced much mirth for the troll. Example of a real big Lulz : Enter Oprah Winfrey.The trolls popularised the phrase “over 9000” to refer to any stupid use of statistics. It was taken from DragonBallz but who cares about that. In September 2008 someone decided to troll the Oprah Winfrey Show by posing as a paedophile on the show’s message board. Online sexual exploitation was her latest hot topic, and lo, she took the bait laid by the troll.“Let me read you something posted on our message boards” she gravely began, “from somebody who claims to be a member of a known paedophile network. His group has over 9000 penises and they’re all… raping… children…”Cue sound of trolls ROTFLTAO. This was a major win for the /b/ board.New words : trollercaust : whereby a website mass-deletes accounts it has figured out are fake troll accounts.Doxxing : revealing someone’s real name, address and financial details onlineALL YOU NEED IS LULZThe trolls like to bray to all who will listen that they don’t have a point of view, they’re just mocking anything and everything, they have no agenda at all. What they say is :Better lulz than bawwWhitney says this is not really so. They perceive mainstream media as disaster whores, turning human misery into ad revenue, so they exploit the fake outrage or fake sentimentality of mainstream media. But she accepts (you can’t not) that the unremittingly ugly tide of homophobic, racist and misogynistic trolling cannot in any way be seen as some kind of moral crusade. FACEBOOK MEMORIAL PAGE TROLLINGThe specialists are called RIPtrolls. They got lots of publicity for posting grotesquely offensive messages mocking the dead person and the grievers, but again, Whitney is able to show that there was some method to their madness. The target of the offensiveness was not, she says, the friends and family at all, but the grief tourists who visited the memorial pages.As far as these trolls were concerned, grief tourists were shrill, disingenuous, and, unlike grieving friends and families, wholly deserving targets. The much ridiculed statement “I didn’t know you but I’m very sorry you’re dead” was therefore seen as a declaration of trollability. The trolls see the media’s fetishizing of dead white kids. The younger, whiter and more female the more the media will like the story. They love the fake handwringing – firstly over the fate of the victim (perhaps murder, perhaps suicide) and then over their own trolling. The journos and the trolls have a great time with each other – how sincere each side is remains obscure. Do the journos care about the people in their morbid stories? No. Do the trolls care? Again no. The family and friends of the victim are caught in this crossfire. Mostly this book avoids scholarly language, which is a great blessing. Now and again we get a sentence likeMainstream media outlets benefited from trolls’ fetishized engagement with the media’s fetishized engagement.FROM 4CHAN TO WALL STREETWhitney traces the split in the /b/ board users which happened in 2010 and was between those who saw trolling as amoral nihilistic Jokester attacks on straight society and those who saw that there could be something positive to do with the collection of skills they had evolved (this group were called “causefags”). The first ”serious” attack from /b/ was on the church of Scientology and the second was Operation Payback, in support of Wikileaks. After that came Occupy Wall Street. One original troll got quite upset about this new political activismAnonymous [the collective name for all posters on /b/] isn’t supposed to represent anything. We did stuff for lulz, for lulz only. Not because we care what happens in the world… We used to represent nothing and we were feared because of that, no one knew when we would act and what we would do. Even we didn’t… We do not have ideals, we do not fight for anything, we do not care about anything.The trolls had been trolled by seriousness. But the original gang did not go away – the celeb nude photo hack of iCloud originated from /b/ and that was pure lulz. So – an excellent book about a weird and disturbing subject which I had only seen from the perspective of the whitebread media before now. This is not one of those scenes where to know all is to forgive all, I think most of these trolls should have been strangled at birth. But I understand a lot more about their corrosive puerility now than I did a few days ago.

  • Lauren
    2018-10-16 16:26

    It's pretty difficult for me to give a scholarly book 5 stars, but this one nailed it. I'm not sure how the trolls -- the topic of this book -- would feel about the topic, but as a researcher and user of the Internet, this demystified a lot of things for me. Phillips makes the argument (quite persuasively) that trolls are the byproduct of our culture, and the behaviors they engage in are emblematic of the mass media practices that we see so often on our television and computer screens. Beyond the usual "trolling is bad" argument, Phillips dissects the behaviors and illuminates why and how trolling exists in our society. She has many interviews with actual trolls and is free about describing her own engagement as a troll as part of her research. She tackles her researcher bias very openly. This book was thought-provoking and informative, and actually has a satisfying ending. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in online culture and behaviors.

  • Atila Iamarino
    2018-10-25 13:05

    Uma análise bem balanceada sobre trolls. A autora descreve a trollagem do 4chan ao Facebook, passando por quem faz e como faz e chegando até o movimento Anonymous recente. Mas o melhor fica por conta de quando ela extrapola, trazendo o papel da mídia como alimentadora de trolls e repetidora dos mesmos comportamentos. A comparação chave do livro, entre como trolls exploram a mídia para conseguir atenção e como a mídia explora trolls para conseguir cliques e views, responsabiliza bem quem participa do ciclo de escrotidão.Tem um pouco de tudo no livro o que faz dele uma leitura relevante para vários públicos. Inclusive por não trazer uma visão sensacionalista dos trolls para quem desconhece completamente o assunto. Mas senti falta de mais informação sobre como lidar com trolls ou tendências atuais.

  • Michael Burnam-Fink
    2018-11-02 12:01

    A lot of hyperbolic language has been spilled over trolls and the internet subculture of trolling. I know, because I've added my tiny share (trolls as reactionary guerrillas). Unlike most commentators, Whitney actually gets it, blending intensive ethnographic involvement in two troll communities in the critical period where trolling went mainstream with a rigorous grounding in sociology and folklore.Phillips argues that trolls are agents of cultural digestion, sifting through the detritus of a heavily schizophrenically juxtaposed media for memetic fragments that can be weaponized "for the lulz." "For the lulz" is the key to the entire business of trolling: the stance that lets trolls win at their own game of emotional damage, while being able to continually shift and redefine and rules. Trolls are as old as discussion on the internet, with a dual definition of either throwing out provocative comments to catch 'honest' discussants, or simply serving as some kind of horrifically regenerating monster. As Phillips chronicles from her time in 4chan, anonymous moved from a dense world of inside jokes and gross-outs (hello goatse my old friend...) to playing tricks on the mainstream culture. Their triumph was getting Oprah to claim that a pedophile organization 'with over 9000 dicks are raping little children' on live TV, a grandiose and ridiculous claim that made the Queen of Daytime TV the dupe of pimply nerds in dark basements. Maximum lulz.The symbiotic relationship between the mainstream media and trolling subculture is one of the most interesting parts of Phillip's research, as she spoke with a loose network of memorial page trolls, who would stalk the pages of telegenic dead teenagers to mock the victim and their family. This predatory act is a mirror of the Nightly News' attitude towards crime, the faux-concern that comes down to the primal fact that if it bleeds it leads, doubly so if the victim is white and wealthy. At best, this memorial trolls were motivated to strike against the stance of fake grief taken by strangers. These days, we live in a world of trolls. 4chan memes are sold at Hot Topic. Donald Trump trolled low-energy Jeb!, little Marco, and Lying Ted Cruz into oblivion in the 2016 GOP Primary (as an aside, Phillips argues that Trump is not a troll, but his /pol/ are his greatest supporters.) Phillips engages with a research subject that is built on ironic detachment and deliberate lies, on desecrating sacred cultural touchstones and then saying "hey man, it's just a game", and does so with impressive clarity and sensitivity. My expectation is that this book will soon become canonical for people studying memes, internet culture, and trolling.

  • Velma
    2018-11-02 12:11

    How ironic that I discovered a book written by a local author (Whitney Phillips is currently a lecturer at the local Ivory Tower, Humboldt State University) via a Brit known only to me online by his reviews. That's teh internets for ya.This book is a research treatise, and the title refers to this c2008 Arguecat meme/macro from 4chan /b/ that calls out a threadjack:Don't know what 4chan /b/ is? Like a carny sideshow Age & Scale operator, I'm gonna take a guess and say you are most likely under 35 years old, as that's the upper age limit of the prototypical user of 4chan, the imageboard website and /b/, the board that has spawned so much of what we call memes and the troll culture that creates them*. (I had to look it up, but Phillips does an excellent job of familiarizing us 40+ oldsters with the vocabulary of her online research subject of trolling). As for "trolling", it is crucial to define terms, because trolling has no static definition, not across time, nor across user groups. Many non-troll internet users (you and I) probably think of trolls as evil, mean-spirited misanthropes that are beyond the pale; we certainly don't know anyone like them, right? Under this rubric, "trolls, and trolls alone, are why we can't have nice things online". That's NOT Phillips' assertion, however; instead, her research suggests instead that:"...trolls are born of and embedded within dominant institutions and tropes, which are every bit as damaging as the trolls' most disruptive behaviors." In other words, "...online trolling is par for the mainstream cultural course."Not a homogeneous bunch (what subculture is?), trolls exhibit myriad trolling styles and tactics, so narrowing down what is and isn't trolling is important. Many online behaviors that are often attributed to trolls by the average netizen, including hacking and cyber-bullying, fall outside of Phillips' definition of trolling and therefore her research scope. Instead, Phillips relies on a 3-pronged definition closer to the way that many of her "oldfag"† troll research collaborators use: 1. Self-identification as a troll;2. Motivated by "lulz"(see next); and3. AnonymityLulz, or laughter at the expense of another, is akin to Schadenfreude, but "with much sharper teeth". Trolls target those that they perceive to be "exploitable", and because they believe that nothing should be taken seriously (no lulz there), their targets include not only traditionally exploited groups (people of color, GLBTQ, and women) but also anyone that seems to care about anything strongly (fan communities, anyone with an ideological conviction or political rigidity, etc.). According to Phillips:"Trolls believe that, by wearing their hearts (or political affiliations, or sexual preferences, or other aspects of identity) on their sleeves, their targets are asking to be taught a lesson." If the singular pursuit of lulz is their motivation, the strategies employed by trolls are infinite: rickrolling, doxing, profile cloning, flaming, IRL actions, media fuckery. Trolls are nothing if not creative.That's the foundation that Phillips builds to frame her argument: that trolling is born of mainstream popular cultural parents, and that trolling behavior is not different from offline culturally sanctioned negative impulses in degree but in kind; or more accurately, not even a difference in degree, just a difference in implementation. She draws parallels between the behaviors of trolls and both mainstream media elites (particularly Fox News and Facebook) and American systems of prejudice (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia). Most notably, Phillips reviews the 4chan/Fox News circle jerk over Anonymous' antics, the commodification of mass-mediation of tragedy and Facebook RIP trolling, and the similarities in overt racism of /b/ trolls that parallels the inferential racism of conservative mainstream media during the 2008 presidential election. Phillips wraps up with a chapter entitled "Where Do We Go From Here?", arguably the most interesting (but also most speculative) topic in the book. She includes a brief (too brief, IMO) explication of the current thinking on how and why to intervene to mitigate trolling behavior, touching on the civil liberty side effects of preemptive measures and the (probable lack of) effectiveness of punitive responses. This chapter also contained my favorite good-guy troll "raid", in which a town saves its library by threatening a book burning‡. I'd like to see her expand on the subjects she touches on here in the final chapter, most notably the connections to feminism and the question of whether using androcentric rhetoric and strategy in the public sphere and particularly as an antidote to trolling behavior will backfire. Some readers might be put off by the somewhat sudden infusion of feminist rhetoric into what was up to that point a fairly non-gendered conversation, but with one caveat§ I was quite intrigued with the ideas myself. Finally, this is bar none THE most readable academic work I've ever encountered. I was interested in it because of my attitude toward the shit-stirring commenters on a particular local "news" website where I live that I bitterly complain about, which I am so put off by that I prefer not to visit it at all. I believed, like most people I think, that trolls are "just" obscene social deviants and that they need to be stopped, but after reading This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, I no longer feel that way. If you have any interest whatsoever in the relationship between trolling and mainstream media and culture, this is a must-read.PS - Need I point out that many of the examples discussed in Phillips work is NSFW? I didn't think so.-----* Also known as the Asshole of the Internet† A term used by many /b/ users to refer to old-school, non-noob trolls‡ Award-Winning Book-Burning Hoax Saves Troy, MI Libraries§ With the exception of her mis-handled comparison to Schopenhauer's The Art of Always Being Right, which she cited as an example (followed & referenced by trolls) of the predominant Western androcentric worldview that "perfectly embodies the adversary method". My reading indicates Schopenhauer did not advocate arguing "whether one is in the right or the wrong", but meant The Art of Controversy as satire, in fact eschewing sophistry."

  • Rose
    2018-11-14 17:04

    I was immediately interested in this book because of its title and because of my own inclination to view behaviors labeled "trolling" as indicative of a deeper and more noxious cultural rot. I was not disappointed.The author skillfully links the abusive and antagonistic rhetoric of trolls to the oppressive and marginalizing dominant culture. She calls mainstream media into account for how they feed into the problem and she does all this in a way that makes it fairly easy for the lay reader to understand.Having spent some time on a lesser-known internet cesspool, I admire the author's courage and patience in spending time with the more well-known trolling platforms. I know I certainly got exhausted quickly. I will be taking some of the author's advice to heart in terms of dismantling a troll attack, but also not to let that kind of rhetoric perpetuate the problem.It is indeed a multifaceted and important problem to solve. Thank you for your work!Some awesome quotes (too many to list in full): "This book complicates the idea that trolls, and trolls alone, are why we can't have nice things online. Instead, it argues that trolls are born of and embedded within dominant institutions and tropes, which are every bit as damaging as the trolls' most disruptive behaviors. Ultimately, then, this is why we can't have nice things, and is the point to which the title gestures: the fact that online trolling is par for the mainstream cultural course.""Needless to say, the power dynamic between the troll and his or her target is, and can only ever be, fundamentally asymmetrical. Trolls don't mean, or don't have to mean, the abusive things they say. They get to choose the extent to which their statements match their personal beliefs; they get to establish that they're just trolling (I complicate this notion of 'just trolling' in later chapters). Targets of trolling, on the other hand, are expected to take trolls at their word, and are only trolled harder if they resist. Consequently, trolls exercise what can only be described as pure privilege -- they refuse to treat others as they insist on being treated. Instead, they do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want, with almost perfect impunity. To call trolling behaviors ethically and ideologically fraught would be an understatement, and is a point that must be taken into consideration -- in fact, must be taken as a given -- in all subsequent discussions of trolling.""As literary scholar James English explains, humor is always a cultural event, never a discrete statement. Even the simplest joke has a context, not just in terms of content but in terms of whom the joke is for (or as is often the case, against). That there is a joke thus implies, in fact requires, that there is an audience -- an 'us' who laughs versus a 'them' who does not.""What is empirically verifiable, however, is the observable fact that trolling behaviors are gendered male, are raced as white, and are dependent upon a certain degree of economic privilege.""Mainstream media outlets in the United States and Great Britain embraced this angle, pouring over every hateful thing trolls -- which the American media still subsumed under the term 'cyberbulling' -- posted to Facebook. In many cases, this coverage merely reinscribed the language of trolling in order to maximize reader outrage -- all the while condemning trolls for explouting other people's grief for personal gain.""Although trolls were often framed as the snarling, misanthropic villains of the RIP trolling story, sensationalist news outlets were just as invested in harnessing audience distress, and just as guilty of profiting from the resulting panic. As with the relationship between Fox News and early Anonymous, the trolls' motives may have diverged from that of mainstream media, but their rhetorical and behavioral strategies were strikingly similar. This difference, of course, is that trolls didn't stand to benefit financially from additional tragedy.""In short, Americans were asked to dissociate. They were asked not to dwell on the consequences of the wars, of torture, of the resulting economic bloodletting. They were asked to go on vacations, and to shop, and not to ask too many tough questions. Is it any surprise, then, that trolls -- who essentially function as cultural dung beetles -- would choose to hold the tragedy of others at arm's length? Is it any surprise that trolling, which crystallized into a discrete subculture immediately following a series of massively mediated tragedies, would be explicitly and unapologetically fetishistic? Furthermore, is it any surprise that instead of crying, these trolls would have chosen to laugh, not just with other self-identifying trolls, but at those who fail to keep their emotions similarly in check?""In addition to operating within mainstream media logics, trolls and trolling behaviors replicate and are animated by a number of pervasive cultural logics. Not only is trolling predicated on the 'adversary method,' Western philosophy's dominant paradigm, it is characterized by a profound sense of technological entitlement born of normalized expansionist and colonialist ideologies. Furthermore, trolling behaviors are undergirded by precisely the values that are said to make America the greatest and most powerful nation on earth. In other words, there is ample cultural precedent for trolling; that anyone is subsequently surprised by the ubiquity of trolls is itself surprising.""But even for those resistant to the idea that Socrates was indeed 'a famous IRL troll of pre-internets Greece,' the fact that trolls have chosen as their intellectual mascot one of the most venerated and fetishized figures in the Western tradition, whose rhetorical method is taught to every college undergraduate in the United States, is significant in itself. Also of significance is the fact that, while trolls and trolling behaviors are condemned as aberrational, similarly antagonistic -- and highly gendered -- rhetorical methods are presumed to be something to which every eighteen-year-old should aspire. This is, to say the very least, a curious double standard. Trolling might be more conspicuously outrageous, offensive, and damaging than traditional discursive modes, but what does it say about the cloth if misogyny can so easily be cut from it?""In short, through raids, forum hijacking, and platform repurposing, trolls tease out the trace of violence and exploitation that is so often effaced from discussions of progress and expansion, particularly within an American context. Again, though, while trolling behaviors are regarded as inherently problematic, the cultural tropes with which trolls' behaviors are aligned are either celebrated or, more frequently, rendered invisible, as if expansionism were as natural as the air Americans breathe.""Just as it places assumptions about free speech in a new and perhaps uncomfortable light, trolling also reveals the destructive implications of freedom and liberty, which, when taken to their selfish extreme, can best be understood as 'freedom for me, liberty for me,' with little to no concern about how these actions might infringe on others' freedoms. American history is littered with moments in which freedom, liberty, self-determination, and of course the push for westward expansion -- everything that is said to make America great -- have been deployed with positive consequences for some and absolutely devastating consequences for others. The idea that a person has a right, and perhaps an obligation, to take advantage of others for their own personal gain is the American dream at its ugliest -- and is exactly the dynamic the most offensive forms of trolling replicate.""The chapter then forwards a practical response to the so-called troll problem, the summary of which could be understood thus: at bottom, the troll problem isn't a troll problem at all. It's a culture problem, immediately complicating any solution that mistakes the symptom for the disease."This book is amazing.

  • Jason
    2018-11-07 15:26

    Adapted from the author's dissertation on the subject of subcultural internet trolls who lurk primarily on the 4chan /b/ board, this is a fun, well written (often in the jargon of the very trolls it studies) and near definitive work on the subject. The author's focus here is not on all bad behavior on the internet--a topic far too exhaustive for casual study--but on a particular subgroup who exist solely to reap chaos online for laughs, or rather lulz. Far from simply condemning these trolls as loser beta males still living with their parents and lashing out at a world that intimidates and rejects them, Phillips argues that the behavior of trolls often reflects and works symbiotically with sensationalist mainstream media to increase exposure for both, a case she often makes persuasively. She does, however, seem to go after the media with much more vehemence than the trolls themselves whose racism, sexism, homophobia and horrible rape-based humor she often softens through contextualization. She never outright excuses trolling, but she also tempers the same outrage that she lets loose on Fox News et al for less blatantly awful rhetoric. And while Phillips tries to be impartial, it's often tough for the reader to do the same. Much of what these trolls do online is reprehensible. Luckily, the best part of the book occurs near the end when 4chan trolls lament the loss of their community as memes and trolling ethos have become mainstream and corporate and no longer subcultural. It actually makes for a nice bit of comeuppance as these trolls seem legitimately butthurt over the emergence of sites like Know Your Meme and Meme Generator. Lulz.Despite its many strengths, there are a few issues that for me might have made the book work even better and merited that fifth star on Goodreads. Occasionally, the book approaches echo chamber academia navel gazing in its tangents into various frames and "gendered" world views (also, when did the word logic become a countable noun; is this some higher education neologism?). More important, although Phillips does a great job of connecting trolling with problematic rhetoric of modern neoconservativism, she doesn't touch on how some of the most abhorrent trolling might be a hyperreaction to the excesses of contemporary progressivism/liberalism: identity politics approaching absurdity ("You see, only white people can be racist in the US because we've now changed the definition of racism to preclude everyone except white people."), Orwellian campus speech codes and, I hesitate to use the term, political correctness. More than anything else, aren't these trolls rejecting the notion of forced civility in a world where the deviant are fired from jobs, expelled from universities and Twitter-shamed by social justice lynch mobs? It's a notable omission and I think a deliberate, politically motivated one from what is otherwise an informative and entertaining analysis of a ubiquitous modern phenomenon.

  • Molly
    2018-11-07 12:12

    This was really interesting. Internet trolls don't occupy a lot of my thoughts, but when this book came into my library I couldn't help but pick it up, as I couldn't imagine what the relationship between trolling and mainstream culture actually entailed - I learned a lot here, ranging from how gullible some news media are, to the motivations behind different kinds of trolling, to the way trolls self-identify and are occasionally protective of their insular culture. The biggest problem I had was that it could have used another pass at proofreading, as there were some typos and grammatical errors throughout. I mean, errors significant enough that I would have put the book down, but the subject matter was so interesting that I cringed my way past them. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who has ever wondered "who" or "why" with regard to internet trolls.

  • Scott
    2018-11-01 14:08

    Whitney Phillips, a scholar of folklore and internet culture, argues in this book that trolls don't emerge ex nihilo, but that they are spawned from a culture that in some ways has made them what they are.This is a fascinating argument. The book is extremely well-written and readable (much in these pages is NSFW, naturally, so consider this a warning). I read academic books all the time and they usually take me years as I casually return to them and read snippets at a time. I read this book, though, in about a week. Phillips is not only brilliant and articulate, she has a knack for restating her points in pithy and memorable ways. I'm sure I'm not the only academic who has read this book and marveled at how she balances the academic with the accessible. I get the feeling that this book will be regarded as the definitive book on trolls (along with Gabriella Coleman's excellent investigation Anonymous called Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy). It was such an interesting read that I've now moved on to her recently-published other book (co-written with Ryan Milner) The Ambivalent Internet. Why only four stars? Fundamentally, my main issue with the book is her argument itself. As it sometimes happens, the ethnographer tends to sympathize with the people he/she studies. Phillips, the digital ethnographer in this case, does not overtly sympathize with these trolls. However, in trying to make sense of their digital conduct, she is perhaps a bit celebratory of their actions at times. There is a crucial part near the end of the book that distinguishes the "big-A" Anonymous group of trolls--who do what they do in the name of justice--and the "small-A" anonymous group of trolls, who do what they do in the eternal pursuit of the "lulz" (mean-spirited fun at another's expense). I appreciated this distinction, it certainly added real nuance to my understanding of troll communities. However (to my liking), Phillips doesn't appear to make this distinction enough in her description of these trolls. They often come across as subversive activist heroes who are only giving our culture what it deserves. To be clear, Phillips is careful never to word it this way, especially in the particularly heinous cases of trolling that take place in online bereavement communities, for example. But her thinly-veiled disgust at conservative media outlets (and presidential administrations) too often comes out in her analysis as the petri dish within which these trolling cultures were cultivated. Whether this claim is true or not, she argues it well. Nevertheless, the argument came off (to me) as being somewhat too evasive of holding trolls accountable for their actions.

  • Sheena Carroll
    2018-10-23 15:15

    This is a scholarly work and is structured as such, but was one of the easiest scholarly reads I've encountered. It's a book that I wish I had access to while I was in grad school - Internet Studies is a growing but still small field that is negatively affected by the ephemeral nature of online culture, particularly memes (a book or article on the subject can quickly become irrelevant almost immediately after publication). This fact is something that Phillips is acutely aware of and does her best to address. Much of what she discusses in terms of what trolls are and how they are influenced by media seems likely to stay the same for the foreseeable future. But given that this book was published in 2015, it could already use an update.Because it is a scholarly book, it falls into some academic traps - namely, attributing some trolling behavior to ideals and concepts that those trolls probably give less than two shits about. Phillips' belief that trolling the memorial pages of suicide and murder victims isn't "objectively bad" because it is a performance to expose the mass media as too sensationalist is...a bit of a reach at best and damaging at worst. Her objective/academic logic contrasts strangely with her obvious personal sympathies towards trolling and her own experiences engaging in those behaviors. I found myself agreeing with a significant portion of this book and I learned a lot about the internet's connections to folklore and philosophy. Ultimately, I greatly value and recommend this book because it finally gave me the language to explain much of what I've observed in my past ten years as an internet user.

  • Kevin
    2018-10-29 17:10

    The insight this dissertation offers on our culture and the subculture of online trolling far exceeded my expectations. The first few sections are a little dry, but it's just the setup to enjoy everything that comes afterward. Phillips dives in mostly without reservations and provides good context to that which many argue has no context. If the digital plane of 4chan, Anonymous, or memes interests you but seems intimidating or nonsensical, this research provides a very good attempt at understanding the why and how behind trolls and the culture that they came from.

  • Mathew Toll
    2018-11-01 16:23

    This is an amazing ethnography of 'subcultural trolls'.

  • Jonathan Haber
    2018-11-06 10:24

    I wish Goodreads had half-stars since this book perfectly balanced impressive insights with severe disappointment.On the plus side, the author provides a remarkable tour of the obscure Internet underworld (actually, the self-described “asshole of the Internet”) of the 4chan/b message board where Internet trolling turned from a pastime to a subculture, complete with its own language and ethical rules.That language was largely incomprehensible to outsiders, consisting as it did of obscure “memes” which combine childish graphics with text either Dada-esque or stunningly (albeit creatively) vulgar. The ethics the trolling community created as it formed into a subculture was similarly alien, elevating to the supreme ideal the ability to inflict so much pain and humiliation on an innocent bystander that their target would burst into fury(preferably publically) generating “lulz,” a currency of hysterical outrage delivered by the subject of the troll’s onslaught.Trolls became news when they broke out of their obscure corner of the Internet and began inflicting themselves on exactly those people most likely to generate lulz: families of the recently deceased, as trolls invaded the comment sections of Facebook memorial pages and – when they got kicked off – created their own pages to parody the dead.While it would be easy to categorize such behavior as psychotic (or at least sociopathic), Phillips does a great service by situating their behavior into the broader culture (especially the broader media culture) to demonstrate that trolls might just be a deformed reflection of ourselves, i.e., a public ready to lap up bigoted and misogynistic commentary from our favorite cable news outlet, so long as they don’t vend their pandering and hatred in terms as stark as those offered up by trolldom.The book also offers important insights into Internet anonymity and the elevation of free speech above all other virtues (another Internet moral meme), which contributes to a trolling culture that will not go away, even if we try to banish its most disgusting aspects and practitioners.But this is also where the book begins to fail. For while it has the trappings of anthropology (complete with a methods chapter explaining how the author managed to collect data from a group that remained militantly anonymous, and thus impervious to factual research or psychoanalysis), the book is really a work of cultural studies, more interested in generating original insights and asking provocative questions than uncovering complex truths.Relegating everything from George Bush Junior to Socrates to the pit for androgyny and imperialism is par for the course in dissertation-land these days (and thus decidedly un-original). But to avoid being accused of “mansplaining” by dwelling on such piffle, instead I want to highlight how her very mission of looking for nuance in the behavior of decidedly un-nuanced trolls is severely undercut by her repeated juxtaposition of interesting insight about the trolls with descriptions of mainstream media (a subject as deserving of subtle cultural attention as is trolldom) reduced to nothing more than a money-grubbing “corporate media” whoring for clicks and ad revenue.I’m guessing that it was in the process of turning her thesis into a published (and brilliantly titled) book that the author felt the need to look ahead to what trolling might mean for the wider society. And it was in this section that she went off the ethical cliff.Under the rubric of “trolling for good,” the author tells the tale of Arc Worldwide, an ad agency that helped to save a public library in Michigan about to be closed due to budget cuts (with tax increases closed off by local Tea Party Activists), by creating a fictitious organization called Safeguarding American Families (SAFE) which pretended to support the Tea Partiers by declaring that the closing of the library would be accompanied by a celebratory book burning.This bit of trollish pranksterism led to voters passing the tax increase and the library being saved (Yay!). But by justifying such means to achieve a slight political end (despite qualifications, Phillips clearly sees the opportunities for such “trolling” as a potential force for positive change), what might be unleashed if Arc Worldwide's strategy catches on? For unless the author and her friends are able to act as gatekeepers of who gets to use such methods, who gets to decide when a political end (or just plain “lulz”) justifies such behavior going mainstream? And if you don’t see this as a threat, keep in mind that other movements that emerged from the same Internet netherworld as did trolling include Anonymous and the alt-right. Trolling is a great place to begin exploring a new world being born, one which can lead to both democratization of public institutions and pathologically moral rot. One hopes that someone else picks up the baton from the author and begins to explore the world being born with less of an agenda.

  • Илья Сидоренко
    2018-11-12 15:23

    Книги. Они бесполезны. Мы тратим на них тысячи рублей, а получаем взамен лишь несколько полезных советов и стопку макулатуры на переработку. Помимо этого, мы уничтожаем деревья, что плохо сказывается на нашей экологии. Пора бы уже сложить все книги в стопку и пустить в них струю, температурой 451 градусов по Фаренгейту.Похоже на провокацию. Верно? Я надеюсь, что вы ещё не успели согласиться с этим и не побежали сжигать книги, ведь данное мнение было высказано лишь для того, чтобы вызвать у вас эмоции.Увидев подобное обсуждение в социальной сети, многие из нас бы встали на защиту книги - популярного источника знаний. Разрослись бы споры, не несущие смысла, ведь подобные заявления являются лишь игрой интернет-троллей, которые живут, питаясь эмоциями людей.Книга Уитни Филлипс попала мне в руки случайно. «Книга про троллинг?» - подумал я. Не верю! Но углубившись в чтение стало понятно, что троллинг - это не просто провокации в сети. Оказалось, что троллинг тесно связан с текущими тенденциями и СМИ, которые принимают активное участие в создании мейнстримов.За последние несколько лет термин «троллинг» утратил свое значение. Сейчас мы воспринимает его как юмор или стёб. Изначально же он обладал куда более глубоким смыслом. Всем известная маска Гая Фокса или по другому маска Анонимуса стала одним из символов интернет-троллей. Прячась под этой маской (онлайн и оффлайн) «хакеры на стероидах» устраивали скандалы, которые подхватывали СМИ, тем самым популяризуя интернет-хулиганство.Интернет-троллинг - это не шутки. Оно может вызывать сильный резонанс в обществе. Тролли не герои и не преступники. Они всего лишь порождение СМИ и интернета. Прячась в тени всемирной паутины, они выбирают цель и безжалостно её атакуют.Вам стоит прочитать эту книгу, потому что с феноменом интернет-троллинга мы встречаемся практически каждый день. Книга Уитни Филлипс поможет читателю понять мотивы интернет-хулиганов, тем самым, обезопасив себя от их атак. Поскольку троллинг - это порождение текущей системы, вы сможете свежим взглядом посмотреть на интернет и многие вещи, происходящие в нём.- See more at: http://iskros.com/post/133798341597/t...

  • Keri
    2018-10-31 09:21

    Though still not a fan of negative and hurtful and violent trolling, I hadn't realized memes got their start from trolling, and had no idea the ways that trolling has been used for the greater good. A balanced perspective and very interesting.

  • Tim Kadlec
    2018-11-05 11:29

    Considering the state of current affairs going on, a book about trolling is incredibly relevant reading. The author's case is that while we decry trolling as something horrible and disreputable, trolling is really just what you get if you were to hold a fun-house mirror up to what is tolerated in our culture (media in particular).I've read some criticism that she is not hard enough on the trolls. While it's true that you can tell at times that her time masquerading amongst them has perhaps softened her stance every so slightly, I think it only strengthens her research. This topic would be far too easy to cast in an emotionally charged, binary way. Her ability to understand the perspective of the people engaging in the behavior is exactly what enables her to have a rational and critical exploration of the broader link between culture and trolling.The prose is fairly academic (though not as bad as many), but the research is solid, fascinating and sobering.

  • Oliver Bateman
    2018-11-03 17:11

    let's say you're in grad school & you luck into having a mentor who lets you break new ground, lets you carve out the first book-length treatment of a particular subject that is covered by the media but only dimly understoodthis dissertation, once delivered to the library, can become a book like this almost instantly *IF* you can get around the typical academic bullshit rigamarole about how such and such a subject isn't important yet (it will be, you dumb fucks) then boom, this field-creating thing exists, and it's a tool for like-minded scholars to generate narrower, more focused works. that said, this is an extremely well written book on top of all that, and i wish it had gotten the "trade press" treatment: high-end editing, a removal of the remaining "to sum up" dissertation-ese, etc. that quibble aside, lots of people should read this book. it's so gr8 it's gr9. it's also very very cheap by monograph standards. buy it and enjoy it!

  • Ian Divertie
    2018-11-14 09:16

    Just inhaled this. Very interesting, and a feminist perspective on the androcentric dynamics of "trolling". With my perspective as a computer geek who has worked for the gov't its surprising how little we worried about these folks, except when they.... well you know. On the other hand its amazing how big their influence, and I don't mean in an angry way, can be on our internal political debates here in the United States. They can be very subtle at times, well and to find out how subtle, -- read the book! Chan4 is a major topic of this book, if you don't understand who they are and how they may or may not relate to the recent Oregon Community College shooting you need to read this book.

  • Catfish
    2018-11-09 09:28

    I really enjoyed this book. I believe that this book, more than others, helped put trolling into context.It's truly informative about many things: drawing on Schopenhauer, Socrates, Coleman, Levy, etc., it talks about why trolls do what they do. It discusses dissociation, overt and inferential racism, the demographic of trolls, and maybe most interestingly the history of trolling and the golden age of trolling.. ~2008-2011(?, something like that).It discusses participatory meme culture and how that changed trolling as sites like Know Your Meme developed with the novice in mind.Really a fantastic book, well-researched and organized.

  • Thomas Hale
    2018-10-22 15:27

    An academic study of trolling and the trolls who troll, this makes a good companion piece to Gabriella Coleman's 'Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy', an ethnograhpic history of Anonymous. Like Coleman (whom she references often), Phillips embeds with and reaches out to a number of members of trolling groups, mainly from Facebook and 4chan. It's a little dry, and there are some things missing that I thought would be covered, but for the most part it's an informative and interesting look at an often exhaustingly bleak subject.

  • River
    2018-10-28 09:17

    This is a very good book on trolling culture on the Internet and Internet culture more generally. Rather than making the simplistic "trolls are bad" argument, Phillips argues that trolls reflect the values of the mainstream culture and that it is the culture that creates trolls. It's an interesting argument and one worth considering. The comparisons between how trolls exploit emotion and how the corporate media does so is spot-on!

  • Maggie Delano
    2018-10-21 15:22

    I enjoyed reading about Whitney Philips' research practices and thoughts on the role of trolling in feminist circles. I also appreciated how reflective Whitney was. She's obviously very close to her material, but I think she does a reasonable job at stepping back and examining trolling in terms of broader culture.

  • Kendra
    2018-10-21 10:04

    I really enjoyed most of this book! Phillips does a good job balancing her concerns about her subject material with the narration necessary to understand it. I found the chapter structure occasionally choppy, though.

  • Lisa
    2018-10-31 17:01

    Good book -a little too much for the casual reader, but a very insightful look at what the internet has spawned (or perhaps allowed to come out from under the rock.) You can tell the genesis was a thesis in the style and organization, but it is well researched an thought out.

  • stormka
    2018-11-01 12:04

    The idea that online abuse reflects our culture is daunting. Educating authorities on the severity of the abuse and how to deal with it is an idea I'm starting to hear often and agree with. One step at a time.

  • Mills College Library
    2018-10-19 16:08

    302.231 P564 2015

  • Nilendu Misra
    2018-11-12 14:05

    Great great introduction and analysis of trolling sub-culture. You can either read this or learn all the stuff after 10,000th online insults hurled at you!

  • Marie_eve_78
    2018-10-23 13:12

    This study is very interesting. It links troll behaviors to mainstream behaviors (particularly the media) in a eye-opening way. Kudos!