Well That Was Fun

July 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

In addition to your standard legal threats, death wishes and accusations of “faggotry,” one of the recurring points of trollish contention regarding Friday’s 9gag/4chan article had to do with my (assumed) title, “Internet Troll Researcher.” The trolls didn’t like this, and in its stead offered a number of constructive suggestions. Just kidding, they told me to kill myself. The internet!

But “Internet Troll Researcher” — presumably they took this from Adrian Chen’s Gawker article, where my specialty was framed somewhat incredulously. Because internet troll researcher? How is that even a thing.

For the record I’ve never called myself an Internet Troll Researcher, in fact have avoided calling myself anything, primarily because I’m not sure where at the table I sit, or even which table it is. My PhD is in English, but I have a structured emphasis in Folklore, but my area of specialty is Digital Culture, but most of the research I do centers on media analysis and I guess sociology (without any counting), but I would probably fit best in an American/Cultural/Media Studies department. On a purely practical level, I’ve not wanted to Danny Bonaduce myself as FOREVERATROLL, since trolling is the thing I’ve written a dissertation about, but isn’t the thing that I DO. In other words, trolling is a project, not exactly an overarching focus. Still, “Internet Troll Researcher” (or even more grimace-inducing, “Dr. Troll”) is the thing people choose to call me, I think because they don’t know what else to say. Frankly I can’t blame them.

But the days of not having a perfunctory awkwardly-standing-in-an-elevator-with-some-people-I-vaguely-recognize-from-the-conference-session-we-all-just-attended “here’s what I do in six words or less” speech is quickly coming to a close. Tomorrow will be my last day of line-editing before I submit the dissertation for final approval, meaning that shit’s about to get….well, official. This is weird — although I defended in June, and at least conditionally have been a Doctor this whole time, I’ve managed to forget the defense ever happened. As far as my brain is concerned, I’m still a first year PhD student. And consequently haven’t given much thought to what I should put on my business card.

So to all my new troll friends who would like to see me fuck myself with a cactus — thanks for the reminder, I’ll be sure to weigh all my options!

Update: I think for now I’ll go with “Internet researcher specializing in transgressive online humor.” My next project may not be as web-based as this one, and if that is indeed the case, I’ll tweak my title accordingly. Fantastisch!

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§ 2 Responses to Well That Was Fun

  • I thought your work fell into the interdisciplinary field of media studies, which borrows and draws from all sorts of places, ranging from literary criticism, communication, sociology and STS. There are a few departments you could work with that don’t fall under that sad “American Studies” banner – and I would argue digital culture is far more global and broad than American studies.

    If you’re done with trolling as a project, what will you work on next?

    • Yes to that — “interdisciplinary media studies” is probably the closest thing, and with 30 additional seconds I could explain maybe not what I do generally, but my general interests and approach (at least for whatever current project). My problem is figuring out what to write on a business card, since my home department (English) doesn’t clarify, and neither does my structured emphasis (Folklore), and neither does my focus within that structured emphasis (Digital Culture), not exactly. I landed on trolling while doing research on political humor, which had been my focus all through college (even though I have a BA in philosophy, go figure) — for me, the “Digital” aspect of the dissertation is really an accident of history. I never was, and never will be, a technologist. It’s the “Culture” part that is more closely aligned with what I would say I do, specifically American culture, hence my wariness to adopt “Digital Culture” without some qualifications.

      I’m actually less worried about what department I might end up in — I’m sure it will be something media-related, something communications-related, something cultural studies-related. It really depends on the school, and what name they’ve given the media-ish studies department.

      As for what I’ll do after this project, I’m thinking it will be something related to anti-fandom (my basic interests as a human are political humor, mischief, and transgression generally — I’ll never stray too far from those general topics). I’m sure the internet will inform that research, but as with the troll project, the focus will be on the people engaged in whatever behaviors, and less so on the specific media or platform (except to the extent that media and platforms impact and influence the range of acceptable, appropriate, or even possible behaviors).

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t lament operating under a looming disciplinary question mark. I’ve never really fit into any particular discipline, and have never felt fully at home in any of the departments I’ve been in (philosophy in undergrad, creative writing for my master’s, English for the PhD), which is fine by me — the second someone gives me a solid line is the second I start looking for a crayon to scribble dinosaurs overtop. But again, “meh whatever works, don’t care” isn’t exactly the most professional introduction I could make…

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