Hello my name is Whitney Phillips.
I have a BA in Philosophy (Humboldt State University, 2004), an MFA in Creative Writing (Emerson College, 2007), and in 2012 received my PhD in English with a Digital Culture/Folklore structured emphasis from the University of Oregon. I am currently a Communication Lecturer at Humboldt State University, as well as a Digital Ecologies Research Project fellow.
My academic research focuses on transgressive humor, cultural outliers, various pop cultural goings-on and mischief generally. I am particularly interested in ambivalent fan, political, and media engagement (and combinations therein). I’m the author of This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture, which examines the social and political context of subcultural trolling with ethnographic focus on 4chan and Facebook (forthcoming with The MIT Press, April 2015). My second book, co-authored with my ongoing collaborator Ryan Milner, is titled Between Play and Hate: Antagonism, Humor, and Mischief Online, and is forthcoming with Polity Press (2016/17).
In addition to trolling behaviors (brief history of the term here and why I dislike the imperative “don’t feed the trolls” here), I’m also interested in so-bad-it’s-good
anti fandoms, internet memes (political and otherwise), moral panics, various forms of culture jamming, online antagonism, online vigilantism, online comment moderation, the (potential) positive political implications of antagonism (an issue we’ll be discussing in depth in Between Play and Hate) and discourses surrounding free speech online. I don’t fit easily into any one discipline, but my work tends to pull from digital, cultural, media, feminist, and critical race theories, and happily straddles the line between the humanities and social sciences.
I am also a writer of creative things, many of them deranged, and am currently seeking literary representation for my first novel, Familiar. It focuses on four generations of unruly Southern women told through one kind-of love story, three intertwined narrative threads, a few well-placed fish and plenty of swearing. If A Confederacy of Dunces was feminist, shorter, and not misanthropic, might be one way to put it.
For a rundown of my academic publications/presentations, scroll to the bottom of this page.
For more of my non-academic writing, check out my profile on Modern Primate. I just can’t with Facebook, but occasionally tweet pictures of my dog at @wphillips49. I can be reached via email at email@example.com.
(Oh, and why “billions and billions?”)
- Phillips, Whitney and Milner, Ryan M. “Decoding Memes: Barthes’ Punctum, Feminist Standpoint Theory, and the Political Significance of #YesAllWomen.” In Entertainment Values: How Do We Assess Entertainment and Why Does it Matter? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.
- “Like Gnats to a Forklift Foot: Exploring Anti-fan Engagement with TLC’s ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.’” Manuscript solicited by Melissa Click for inclusion in anti-fan anthology Dislike, Hate and Anti-Fandom in the Digital Age (forthcoming eventually).
- “So Bad It’s Good: The Kuso Aesthetic in Troll 2.” Transformative Works and Cultures, September 2013.
- “The House That Fox Built: 4chan, Anonymous and Cycles of Amplification.” Published online before print in Television and New Media, August 2012. (pre-proof version here)
- “In Defense of Memes.” In Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, ed. Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green. New York: New York University Press, 2012.
- “LOLing at Tragedy: Facebook, Memorial Trolls, and Reactions to Grief Online.” First Monday, December 2011. (essay has been significantly revised since publication; email for updated version)
- “Free Speech, Privacy and Control: An Interview with Paulie Socash.” Index on Censorship, September 2011.
Other Writing (selected)
- “Comment Moderation and the (Anti-) Social Web.” Published on The Daily Dot for the Antisocial Network Series, October 9 2013.
- “Don’t Feed the Trolls? It’s Not that Simple.” Published on The Daily Dot for the Antisocial Network series, June 12, 2013.
- “A Brief History of Trolls.” Published on The Daily Dot for the Antisocial Network series, May 20, 2013.
- “Dissecting the Frog: What Humor has to Say About Culture and Community.” Published on The New Inquiry, April 8 2013.
- “Ethnography of Trolling: Workarounds, Discipline-Jumping and Ethical Pitfalls” (part 3 of 3; focused on discipline jumping). Published on Ethnography Matters, March 5 2013.
- “Ethnography of Trolling: Workarounds, Discipline-Jumping and Ethical Pitfalls (part 2 of 3; focused on research ethics).” Published on Ethnography Matters, February 5 2013.
- “Ethnography of Trolling: Workarounds, Discipline-Jumping and Ethical Pitfalls” (part 1 of 3; focused on methodological workarounds). Published on Ethnography Matters, January 8 2013.
- “What an Academic Who Wrote Her Dissertation on Trolling Thinks of Violentacrez.” Published by The Atlantic, October 15 2012.
- “So Bad It’s Funny: Ambiguous Fan Engagement as an Expression of Cultural Literacy.” Panel presentation at 2014’s ICA meeting in Seattle, WA.
- “Why Study Villains, Scoundrels, and Rule Breakers? Online Trolls as Case Study.” TEDx Talk given at TEDxCSS event in Spokane, WA on November 13, 2013. Conference theme: “Reimagining Community: Outliers, Misfits and Revolutionaries.”
- “Just Because is Does Spread Doesn’t Mean it Should: Online Vigilantism and the Problem of Public Shaming.” Presentation for the “The Dark Side of Spreadability” panel at the 2013 Media in Transition 8 Conference in Boston, MA.
- “Adventures in Aca-meme-ia.” Panel presentation at ROFLcon III, May 2012.
- “Cats and Penises All the Way Down: Performances of Gender and Sexuality on 4chan/b/.” Paper presented at the International Communications Association meeting, May 2012.
- “‘She Must Have Stockholm Syndrome’: The Ethics of (Anonymous) Digital Ethnography.” Paper presented at the University of Oregon’s Graduate Research Forum, January 2012.
- “Privacy in the Age of Facebook.” Panel discussion sponsored by USC’s Visions and Voices lecture series, March 2011.
- “Playing with Fire: Learning in Niche Online Communities.” Panel presentation at Digital Media and Learning, March 2011.
- “Transcending Irony: Mapping the Relationship Between Technology, Politics and Humor.” Paper presented at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, March 2010.
- Interviewed by Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times (“Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases”), August 2014.
- Interviewed by Nick Thompson at CNN (“Internet Trolls: What to Do About the Scourge of the Web”), July 2013.
- Interviewed by Brent Bambury of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Day 6 radio program for a segment on online vigilantism, December 28 2012.
- Appeared on Offbook (PBS web series) for an episode on trolling, bullying and free speech (“Bad Behavior Online”), December 13 2012.
- Appeared on trolling-themed episode of Australia’s SBS Insight television program, October 12 2012.
- Appeared on Offbook (PBS web series) for an episode on online Fan Culture (“Can Fandom Change Society?”), September 6 2012.
- Interviewed by Kate Miltner for The Atlantic (“How the Aurora Shootings Became Fodder for Lulz”), July 2012.
- Interviewed by Nidhi Subbaraman at Fast Company (“Meet Dr. Troll”), May 2012.
- Interviewed by Scott McLemee of Inside Higher Ed for his blog Intellectual Affairs (“Under the Bridge”), December 2011.