My Book, Officially Forthcoming with MIT Press

February 13, 2014 § 30 Comments

sagan trollsss

It is with great excitement, gratitude, and relief (all of the emotions really) that I can finally officially announce that my book on trolls (a millionth-degree revision of my PhD dissertation) will be published by The MIT Press in early 2015. 

Book abstract:

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture chronicles the emergence and evolution of online trolling, a wildly popular behavioral practice predicated on meme creation, forum raiding, and general disruption. It focuses specifically on behaviors born of and associated with 4chan’s /b/ board, one of the Internet’s most infamous and active trolling hotspots.

Pulling from thousands of hours of participant observation, dozens of formal interviews with participating trolls, and a careful reconstruction of the history of online trolling, the book argues that the so-called troll problem is actually a culture problem. Not only do trolls fit comfortably within the contemporary American media landscape, they effortlessly replicate the most pervasive—and in many cases outright venerated—tropes in the Western tradition. Trolls may take these tropes to their furthest and most grotesque extremes, but at a very basic level, trolls’ actions are born of and fueled by culturally sanctioned impulses, immediately complicating the impulse to condemn trolls for their obscene and seemingly deviant behavior. These behaviors may well be obscene, but as this book illustrates, the most surprising thing about trolling is that it isn’t all that deviant. In fact, in ostensibly non-trolling contexts, similar behaviors are regarded as perfectly acceptable, if not desirable. Ultimately then, the book isn’t just about trolls. It’s about a culture in which trolls thrive.

This truly has been a long, weird road; for anyone interested in taking a trip down memory lane, here I am comparing my dissertation to The Human Centipede; here I am fretting about losing the ability to speak English during my dissertation defense; here I am smashing my head against the table post-deposit; here I am likening the process of writing a dissertation to The Shining; here I am dancing around the complex psycho-sexual relationship I have with my manuscript; here I am discussing my overall writing process and offering some SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK OR DISSERTATION tips. Good times!

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§ 30 Responses to My Book, Officially Forthcoming with MIT Press

  • Kasi says:

    Congrats Whitney! Can I buy in Australia??

  • […] are actually every bit as problematic (I’m looking at you, Fox News). Which happens to be the underlying thesis of my book and also everything I’ve ever written about trolls. I would make a joke about fruit salad or […]

  • Hi Whitney,

    Your book sounds fascinating and I really wish it was coming out this year and not next! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, thanks so much for your great work. I’m currently doing my PhD in Sociology and have been trying to formulate my dissertation topic to be on internet vigilantism/mob justice. I’m still new in this field though so it’s been difficult. I’m hoping to look at Reddit and do a cross-cultural comparison with other countries/cultures. I’m sure you’re very busy but I’d love to ask you some questions about your work, particularly your ethnographic methodology in studying 4chan and Facebook. If you have any time, please e-mail me, I would really appreciate it!! Thank you again! (PS, don’t look at my website, it’s so random and embarrassing haha).

  • […] be present,” said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. “The faster that the […]

  • […] The New York Times has a post on Trolls and Trolling today. It cites an academic named Whitney Phillips who has written a book about Trolls. […]

  • […] The New York Times has a post on Trolls and Trolling today. It cites an academic named Whitney Phillips who has written a book about Trolls. […]

  • […] The New York Times has a post on Trolls and Trolling today. It cites an academic named Whitney Phillips who has written a book about Trolls. […]

  • […] Doctor Whitney Phillips, of Humboldt State University, and a troll expert (who has written a book on the subject), Manjoo illuminates the phenomenon […]

    • Denise Wong says:

      I just read the same article, and I want to read this book too. Internet trolls are rampant out there, and part of the problem is that some people think they’re cool. I had to ban my own nephew from my Facebook page for a year because he would not cease and desist trolling on my page! His father (my brother) and his grandmother were irate with me about that because they thought I was being “mean” to him, but as neither of them has been on Facebook in their lives, they had no understanding at all of what the little imp was up to!

    • Aw that is nice, Someone! And I wish it was available but it’s still being made into a book. The good news is that I don’t have to do any of that work, but the bad news is that now I just have to wait till early Spring while someone else does…

  • Denise Wong says:

    Hi, I just learned about your book from a New York Times article, and am very interested in buying it when it comes out. Is there some way we can pre-register for it? (I’m almost 62 years old, and there is no way I’m going to remember this over a year’s time!)

    • Oh man I wish there were! I don’t know how the backend publication stuff works (i.e. actually turning a Word doc into a book you can hold & also buy), but know it will be available for preorder sometime soon-ish. I really do appreciate your interest!

  • Stephen Peters says:

    Also ended up here from NYT. I’m really looking forward to this a wish you great success with it, especially after seeing how long it took to get here.

    • Thank you Stephen! I am just counting down the days till the book comes out…have been working on the project since 2008 so it will be such a relief to finally have everything out there. I really do appreciate your kind words, take care!

  • Pigsy Cyber Bully says:

    The trouble with the anti-troll, trolls is they end up typing to themselves. Empty chat rooms empty forums and empty BBS boards and so on.

    The trouble with the anti-troll trolls, is they follow the “trolls” to stop them from being “trolls.” Megalomaniacs are destructive their anti-troll trolls ruined newsgroups a long time ago. Also what happened to AOL, ICQ and so on the megalomaniacs were left with nobody to filter.

  • Kate says:

    Well, if you ever start a mailing list of people who want to be reminded to buy your book, put me on it. (Incidentally, do you talk about cable-tv trolls like Ann Coulter or radio trolls like Limbaugh? It has always seemed obvious to me that they are no different from the outrageous, insufferable people who disrupt your conversations on the internet….)

    • Ha thanks, and yeah a mailing list is a really good idea — though MIT is handling all that stuff so I can try to remember, but I think they will be sending email blasts themselves. They’ve set a pub date of April which is so far away, until I think about where I was a year ago (or the year before that, this has really been a never ending process). Anyway yeah I mention both Limbaugh and Counter, and raise precisely that point! Thanks for commenting, take care…

  • lex6819 says:

    Some social media sites seem more susceptible to trolls than others. Twitter and Slashdot are far worse than Pinterest or Quora, in my opinion. Facebook is sort of on middle ground territory. It does seem to be a place where people like to grandstand, but the “unfriend” button and “unlike” feature, as well as other personal settings, sort of mitigate some of the effects. I’ve never had to unfriend or unfollow anyone on Quora or Pinterest, ‘though….

  • I’ll take a second to troll this page:). Seriously though, excited for this research! Working in broadcast television, this trolling culture has fundamentally changed this game. Any topic we post on our Facebook page/Twitter feed is riddled with negative comments and feedback. Especially stories that involve guns, commuter bikes and global warming. It just zaps your motivation some days. Thank you for doing this research, it’s desperately needed.

    • Why thank you! And I’m just so, SO eager to get this research out there…I’ve been working on this project for 6 years and it is burning a hole in my pocket/brain. Thanks for commenting and the kind words!

  • […] The New York Times has a post on Trolls and Trolling today. It cites an academic named Whitney Phillips who has written a book about Trolls. […]

  • Murph says:

    Responding to attacks consumes time and energy, and particularly in the case of trolls, accomplishes almost nothing. Hence, the best strategy for reacting to trolling, as is the case with nearly all ad hominem attacks is to simply ignore them as nothing more than a sad commentary on their authors.

  • […] be present,” said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. “The faster that the […]

  • […] be present,’ said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. ‘The faster that the […]

  • […] economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present,” Whitney Phillips, author of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, tells Manjoo. Wired’s Laura Hudson recently offered a similar assessment, and back in 2011 […]

  • […] neck. While Twitter and Facebook have released new rules to protect users, we all know that the trolls have won the battle for Internet […]

  • […] the trolls”. Dr Whitney Philips, a communication lecturer at Humboldt State University and who is releasing a book on trolls, writes in The Daily […]

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