And this is my dog Nathan

And this is my dog son Nathan

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 faculty associate in Sociology at Humboldt State University, and am the Assistant Director of the Cultural Department for the Wiyot Tribe.

My academic research focuses on transgressive humor, cultural outliers, and mischief generally; I’ve written a book about the social and political context of subcultural trolling, with ethnographic focus on 4chan and Facebook (forthcoming with The MIT Press, 2015). 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, and have recently been dabbling in 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 working on (and soon will begin seeking representation for) a novel called 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.

As far as my non-academic interests, I enjoy decoupage, sculptingpeople-watchingrunning through corridors of trees, sketching things, and my first love, the warming glow of television.

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 whitney.phillips@humboldt.edu.

(Oh, and why “billions and billions?”)

Academic Publications

Other Writing (selected)

Presentations (selected)

  • 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.

Media (selected)

§ 43 Responses to About

  • Stan Pendergrass says:

    I saw you mentioned in the Wired article on the Meme Convention. You’re doing your dissertation on trolls? I am also working on my disertation on Anonymous at Robert Morris University. Thought I’d say hello and wish you luck in your defense. I’d be interested in reading it once your finished.
    Take care,
    Stan Pendergrass

    • Hi Stan! Thanks for the note. And yes, TROLLS. I’ll be defending my dissertation in the next few weeks, oh what a world. What’s your approach to anon, are you looking at the political arm or more trollish fuckery? I focus pretty much exclusively on the latter, though of course those distinctions (like all distinctions in this world) are permeable.

  • Stan Pendergrass says:

    Hey back at you. I’m looking to do a Case Study analysis on the group, looking at it not so much as a group of individuals but more as a movement… an idea. I’ve been following the news on them for a long while and have built up a pretty extensive annotated bibligraphy so I will look at all secondary data and attempt over the summer to build it into a story of the group as a whole. Qualitative.

    • What department are you in? And how far along in the process? I’m always curious about how people arrived at this sort of topic, and how much support they received once they did.

  • Stan Pendergrass says:

    I work at the Pentagon for the Navy but am part of the executive-level graduate program at Robert Morris. It will be a D.Sc in Information Systems & Communications. I defended my proposal last month and will complete the course and defend my dissertation next May.

  • Stan Pendergrass says:

    We actually had someone in our class who was looking to do their dissertation on Memes. But her Advisor talked her out of it. Pity. It would have been fun for her to do. i wish I knew about the convention, I would have loved to meet all the people. I spend a lot of time on 4Chan because of Anonymous so I’m very familiar with the subject.

    • Yeah, it’s still pretty tough to find acceptance for meme-ish/internet culture work within academia. With time this will probably change, but is a bummer for people like your classmate!

  • Hey! Just read about your Trolling PhD! I think it’s great, that this topic is finally getting researched. I myself wrote my german Diploma thesis (German Diploma in the middle between bachelor and master) about troll culture. It’s even in english language (altough my english is not that good) so that anybody can read it.
    Is there a way that I could read your thesis?

    You can find mine online at http://wwwwwwwww.at/trolls


    • Hi Stefan! Thanks for the note —– and yes, I know of your thesis, in fact I’ve already read it! Really really interesting and clever work. I’ve actually been meaning to get in touch, but I’m finishing up all my defense stuff; the last two months have been a whirlwind. I would love to chat more about your project/your process, can I email you at the address you provided?

  • Thank you for your kind words. You can email me under the address, i provided here. Looking forward to chat more.
    But for now I wish you the very best for your defense. :-)

  • nig nog says:

    Good fucking god. You call yourself a troll scholar or someshit. Kill yourself and jump in front of oncoming traffic.

    -with love,

  • Anonymous says:

    At troll scholar?


    Go fuck yourself with a dildo harboring an STD, you braindead moron.

  • internet troll scholar says:

    >▓▓██░ ░░░░░░░░▒▓█████████▓██▓▓█
    >█▓▓▒ ░░░░░░░░░░░▓████████▓▓██▓▓
    >██▓ ░▒▒░░░░░░░░░░▒████████▓▓██▓
    >█▓▓▒▓▓▓▓▓▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░░▒▒░▒▒▒░ ░▒▓
    >▓██▓▓▓▓▓▓▒░▒▓▒▒▓▓▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░ ░░
    >▓▓██▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▒▒▒▓█▓▒▒▒▒▒▓▒░ ░▒░
    >▓▓█░ ░░░░▓▓▓▓▒▒▓▓██▓▒▒░▒▒▓▒

  • Stan Pendergrass says:

    Congratulations on your Phd! I will be at DEFCON 20 next week in Vegas, studying all things Anonymous and hacktivist! Good luck at NYU!

  • Stephen says:

    I’m commenting out of concern for multiple internet communities. While I respect your endeavour to study and document the common “troll” mentality, a lot of what you’ve posted is coming across as nothing more than a smear tactic against a number of communities.

    You’re articulate, which makes it easy for a lot of the things you say to come across as fact; so if you’d put a little more time into research for these articles, I wouldn’t have a problem. This comment isn’t meant to offend, and I apologise if I do so. I’m just voicing my concerns in a constructive manner, instead of dox’ing and ruining your life like I’m sure the victims of your articles are planning on.

    It’s disappointing really, because I truly enjoyed some of the content you’ve written. If I weren’t concerned about the effect of some of your less accurate articles, I’d definitely be recommending this site to friends and family. If I sound like I’m full of shit, it’s because I’m only young and as such don’t have an abundance of formal education.


    • Stephen, I appreciate you taking time to write me such a thoughtful response. I’m glad to see you’re so invested in the conversation, and in my work! Since you have such an eye for accuracy, I was hoping that you could point out some instances in my research where I’ve gotten my facts wrong. Here, I’ll do the first couple — in my original post about 9gag, I didn’t specify that I was in fact referring to /b/. In that instance, I should have been more specific. You’ll find that in my other work, I am very careful to differentiate the different boards. Regarding the “9fag” concern, which as many of your colleagues pointed out (in between rape and murder threats) is a function of wordfilters, I was actually referring to the timeframe BEFORE the filters were implemented. You know, before this summer! In other words, 9gag may filter as 9fag now, but that wasn’t always the case. I have a number of caps that show very clearly that, as late as February of this year, “9fag” wasn’t an automatic filter, but rather was what trolls on /b/ called the site.

      I look forward to your insights, and again, really appreciate your interest.

  • Hi Whitney! Congratulations on finishing your PhD! I’d love to read your work, is it published already online? I’m a digital culture researcher myself as well, from Finland, and my PhD is about online mourning in online gaming and social media environments. As you can see from my topic, I’ve come across trolling as well, which is why I’d love to cite your work.

    Congrats again!


    ps. Trolls in a website of a troll research(er)? Priceless! Almost choked on my morning coffee! XD

    pps. http://bittiavaruuteen.wordpress.com/

    • Hi Anna! Thanks, and yeah, the trolls who posted here are gentlemen, scholars, and have given me a beautiful gift that is their shitty comments. Thanks for the research fodder, guys!

      As for my work, yes some stuff is available online…the links in my About section will take you to two of the articles I’ve written (one on memorial page trolling on Facebook, though I’ve revised the article pretty significantly since publishing…have added more stuff about the relationship between troll engagement and mainstream engagement with tragedy, there’s a little bit on that here http://billions-and-billions.com/2012/07/11/when-research-attacks-part-one-million/), and my full dissertation will be available pretty soon — I’ll be depositing within a week or so. Who knows how long it’ll take before it’s made available on the library website, probably within the month?

      I’m very curious about your work — I’ve just read a description on your blog, and it sounds really fascinating. Please send me any links to stuff you’ve written! I’m going to take about a week off after I know the dissertation is safely deposited, but once I’m ready to stop watching bad reality television and start using my brain again, I’d love to compare notes.

      Thanks again for getting in touch…you’re doing really cool stuff, I’m very pleased to meet you!

      • Hear hear about the bad reality television, I’m hooked as well, since it works as a perfect antidote to any work related literature, which usually just makes my brain go *au*.

        I haven’t been able to publish anything thorough in English yet and I reckon your Finnish isn’t fluent enough to follow my articles in my native tongue, but I’m working on it and hopefully will be able to publish something before the actual graduation sometime next year. In the blog I have written some of my field notes and just things that keep coming up during the research, so you can find the stuff under the tag “in English” when you’re ready to get back. :)

        Thanks again and have a great, albeit short, holiday!

      • Oh man. Reality television is my saving grace. I ended up staying with my advisor and her husband for a few days during a conference last spring — her husband was shocked to see what happened to me when I sat in front of the tv screen. “You have two speeds,” he said, “100 miles per hour and 0 miles per hour.” This made me laugh, and pretty much captures why I love the warming glow so very much.

        I did see the English section on your blog, and will definitely check it out. I may try to Google translate some of your other work, but those kinds of translations are usually absurd and (for me at least) very funny, not the best way to read academic research.

        I’ll be back in the saddle soon, more from me then!

  • Mike says:

    Hey, just heard your last comment with Tom Ashbrook discussing Internet Trolls. I think your comment was spot on (paraphrased: trolling behavior is deeper than just the internet and anonymity – but has something to do with debate in the Western tradition.) and I wish that you had more time to go further with that. Gave me a lot to think about, though!

  • Anonymous says:

    OMGWTF one year after i graduate from gallatin and YOU decide to come teach. HOW DID I MISS THAT?! I concentrated in entertainment business during the age of the digital revolution. i would have loved to take your class, mucho jealous of all ur current students.

    • Oh man, I would have loved for you to take my class! This is my first time teaching this course, and it’s been really fun. I’ve certainly learned a lot! Thanks for reading and commenting…

  • [...] have even seeped into congressional hearings. In research conducted between 2008 and 2012, Whitney Phillips –who received her PhD in English with a Digital Culture/Folklore emphasis from the [...]

  • [...] these subjects threaten to harm or otherwise humiliate the researcher. In her second guest post,Whitney Phillips @wphillips49  tells us how she responded to threats from the community she was studying. [...]

  • [...] note: In the final installment of Whitney Phillip‘s @wphillips49 series on ethnography of trolling, she shares with us how she navigates [...]

  • [...] and others, such as Whitney Phillips, an Internet scholar and lecturer at NYU who has studied the trolling behavior of 4chan, think [...]

  • [...] and others, such as Whitney Phillips, an Internet scholar and lecturer at NYU who has studied the trolling behavior of 4chan, think [...]

  • [...] and others, such as Whitney Phillips, an Internet scholar and lecturer at NYU who has studied the trolling behavior of 4chan, think [...]

  • sui juris ecclesia persona says:

    The federal government has trollish behavior, big time. Destroying books. Only allowing Incorporated book publishers to place their views in the incorporated Library of Congress, promoting only one view. that of the corporations. is bias censorship. Self-publishing rubbish… government propaganda ministers keep educated students brain dead, in fear, omitting important facts… First lesson children…Lincoln was not a Hero, regardless of the Lincoln cult. Lincoln was a Tyrant and violated the Constitution on numerous levels. Unprovoked Martial law. Responsible for 600,000 dead Americans. The Lincoln cult Installed a Dual citizenship within the redundant 14th amendment, a citizen of a state and the united states. When the “united states” is a corporation (they defined it), and they have no land, except a 10 square mile federal Incorporated (1871) city. You cannot be a citizen of a corporation. Amazon advertising kickbacks are not Royalties for authors. If the slaves were Free in the 13th amendment, there is no reason for a 14th amendment, which is voluntary. A slave who was free in 1860, before the War, was a Freeman and Not a Citizen. The federalized government is occupying this country, just like in Iraq and elsewhere. They want everyone passive, except the Federalized judges, police, lawyers–all who take a federal oath. That they do not keep it. There is no 4th Amendment. We are still under Martial law, nobody ever removed it from that Tyrant Lincoln. (see gold trim Flag in court; that is a military flag) It is not a deluxe fancy flag. As you all know that a Constitutional court Requires a jury trial, without a jury trial it is self-evident a court of admiralty. And from your Civics classes, checks and balances. Oregon has no Constitutional courts. legislative courts, and legislative laws. a change in constitution in 1907. (fact check) Nobody every taught that to the people. Ok. Children…I know that is a lot of information for one evening. But it is a start. Recess!!!!!! Abandon Ship!

  • […] or groups to model what is and what is not acceptable within a specific (sub)cultural context,” Whitney Phillips, a faculty associate in Humboldt State University’s sociology department researching Internet […]

  • […] or groups to model what is and what is not acceptable within a specific (sub)cultural context,” Whitney Phillips, a faculty associate in Humboldt State University’s sociology department researching Internet […]

  • […] or groups to model what is and what is not acceptable within a specific (sub)cultural context,” Whitney Phillips, a faculty associate in Humboldt State University’s sociology department researching Internet […]

  • […] or groups to model what is and what is not acceptable within a specific (sub)cultural context,” Dr. Whitney Phillips, a faculty associate in Humboldt State University’s sociology department researching Internet […]

  • […] And then I ran across this TEDx talk by Whitney Phillips: […]

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