Well Played, Dillon the Hacker. Well Played.

April 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is proper, artful trolling and mother approves.

Yeah So Ok Well Then

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

“4chan is known for playing elaborate and often tasteless pranks on the public.”


—-but let’s report on it anyway.

So There’s Chatter That the Clackamas, OR Shooter Posted a Threat on 4chan

December 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

A collaborator of mine just sent me these screencaps (via imgur), said to be proof  that the Clackamas Town Center shooter posted a threat to 4chan before fatally shooting two others and killing himself. The news hit Twitter early this morning:

Screen shot 2012-12-12 at 6.48.54 AM

Screen shot 2012-12-12 at 6.46.05 AM

From a simple Twitter search of “Clackamass” and “4chan” (conducted at 6:45am EST):

Screen shot 2012-12-12 at 6.46.38 AM

It’s early, and I’m not sure how/where/if this story will travel, so I don’t entirely know what to say, other than it is most likely a hoax, so proceed with caution. For one thing, this kind of thing has happened before. For another, why would a person magically have a screencap posted two days ago on a forum whose boards 404 after a few hours? People make weird threats on 4chan’s /b/ board all the time, so while it’s possible that a concerned anon saw the post and decided to take a cap just in case, it isn’t likely. What is likely is that some anon or group of anons decided it would be fun to photoshop a screencap and see how far the story would go, which was precisely the motivation behind the Aurora 9gag prank. In addition to lining up with everything /b/ has ever done, particularly in the wake of mass shootings, the alleged screengrab includes a subtle –what appears to be a subtle– reference to the perception that /b/ has been defanged, a point that strongly suggests that trolling is in fact afoot. “this is why no one takes 4chan seriously anymore. i am going to shoot up this fucking mall tomorrow and you will all see,” the alleged poster allegedly posted. This might not be an explicit memetic reference –a basic calling card of much trolling, particularly trolling emanating from /b/– but it does gesture towards an ongoing conversation amongst /b/ regulars.

So at first blush, I call bullshit. The question is, what will the internet say?

Update: Here is one thing.

“In Defense of Memes”: My Essay From Spreadable Media

December 3, 2012 § 8 Comments

In late 2010, Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green invited me to contribute to their forthcoming book Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. I decided to discuss the ways in which trolls use the term “meme,” focusing specifically on trollish engagement with the ICP’s art video “Miracles” (above). The book comes out in January, and today my essay went live. As I explain in the first paragraph:

Contrary to the assumption that memes hop arbitrarily from self-contained monad to self-contained monad, memes as they operate within trolldom exist in synecdochical relationship to the culture in which they inhere. In other words, memes spread—that is, they are actively engaged and/or remixed into existence—because something about a given image or phrase or video or whatever lines up with an already-established set of linguistic and cultural norms. In recognizing this connection, a troll is able to assert his or her cultural literacy and to bolster the scaffolding on which trolling as a whole is based, framing every act of reception as an act of cultural production.

Two years on, I still stand by this description. What I don’t stand by, however, or what I stand by with some basic qualifications, is my –from a 2012 perspective– blithe, oversimplified use of the term “troll.” I may have been able to throw that term around in 2010 without much ado, but that’s no longer the case. A lot has changed since I wrote this piece, most notably WHO and WHAT the term “troll” subsumes, and what the implications of this distinction might be. This is something I have talked about on this blog quite frequently. Because moving targets, they are tricky!

So in addition to providing a riveting account of the miracle of magnets (HOW DO THEY HOW), this essay serves as a reminder that on the internet (especially this corner of the internet), emergent online behavior –to say nothing of the words we use to describe emergent online behavior– often evolve faster than we can publish things about them. As a researcher, this can be deeply frustrating. Then again, stagnation would be much worse, and furthermore would result in me not having a job. I happen to like having a job, so…thumbs up to the inexorable march of verbs, on account of they give us no choice.

I Did It for the HeeHees, or, Jumping the 4chan Shark

October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

For the last few days I’ve been revisiting –reworking, reorganizing, reframing– my dissertation for possible publication. I haven’t looked at the thing since I deposited the manuscript in mid August, and since “finishing” (finishing is a relative term) so much has happened in the world-o-trolling I hardly even know where to start. The discourse surrounding trolls and trolling behaviors has gotten away from everyone, including trolls, who seem just as confused about what the term means and whom the term subsumes as the media. As I discussed in this May 2012 post, my argument can handle these sorts of seismic shifts, since I had no choice but to back up and retrofit my argument to BE about change. Still, yikes, and back to the coal mines I guess.

The above art film pretty much captures it. And a quick programming note: I will be drunk blogging Smiley aka 4chan the Movie with my friend Kate Miltner this Sunday; check your local listings.

On Shifting Sands

September 9, 2012 § 2 Comments


The other day my partner Chris Menning argued that search interest in the term “meme” had plateaued, and speculated that this had something to do with lulz Anonymous’s post-OWS inactivity, or maybe not inactivity but lack of media attention (which essentially amounts to the same thing). The idea being that Anonymous–and by “Anonymous” he meant little-a, i.e. the anon most closely associated with 4chan’s /b/-board–was no longer generating new memetic content, and therefore no longer fueling the once ubiquitous meme-train (and subsequently, Google search interest in similar).

Today Chris clarified his position, specifically by defining his terms a bit more carefully and also by positioning his argument in relation to existing arguments, including one of my own blog posts wherein I wring my hands over ad-hoc methodological reframings. And wring my hands I did, oh boy. Because these aren’t easy conversations to have, in fact can be the source of great existential turmoil. But they are important conversations to have, and not just important but inevitable. Things change, especially when underground content or behavior begins to go mainstream, and particularly when said mainstreaming begins making certain people money (see above). I devote the last two chapters of my dissertation to precisely these issues, and precisely these shifts, and postulate a number of interconnected reasons explaining not just the how but also the why.

The fact is, though, this dust is still settling. We don’t know how or when the story will end, or if it even makes sense to use that sort of framing. We’re certainly in a period of transition, and it certainly is the case that the meme/troll space of 2012 is very different from the meme/troll space of 2008. The question of whether or not that’s a good thing is irrelevant — we are where we are, deal with it. I’ll keep wringing my hands, and the world will keep turning, and otherwise who knows.

Well Well Well.

July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pfft 4chan, says Adrian Chen.  (also, it’s Friday, I’m about to watch Ancient Aliens, so more on this tomorrow, maybe.)

Like so many once-dominant trends, 4chan was made irrelevant by its own success. A few years ago, 4chan’s hyperactive remix culture made it a unique cauldron where bits of internet detritus could come together and give birth to new memes, Lolcats, Rick-rolling and Nyan Cat, are all 4chan classics. As memes became the language of the web—and grew to be increasingly lucrative—aggregators like BuzzFeed professionalized the process, repackaging the best stuff from darker corners of the web with cold efficiency. Why wade through the porn and gore on 4chan to find the next internet thing when a slick BuzzFeed listicle comes complete with a half-dozen share buttons to easily show all your friends?

Full article here!


June 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

From the NYT review of Parmy Olson’s new book, We Are Anonymous.

The breeding ground for much of this was 4chan, the “Deep Web” destination “still mostly unknown to the mainstream but beloved by millions of regular users.” The realm of 4chan called /b/ is where some of this book’s most destructive characters spent their early Internet years, soaking up so much pornography, violence and in-joke humor that they became bored enough to move on. Ms. Olson, whose evenhanded appraisals steer far clear of sensationalism, describes 4chan as “a teeming pit of depraved images and nasty jokes, yet at the same time a source of extraordinary, unhindered creativity.” It thrived on sex and gore. But it popularized the idea of matching funny captions with cute cat photos too.

Full review here, wats not included.

Oh man.

June 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Quick theory: perhaps 4chan keeping much more extensive records of who does what than anyone knows (common knowledge that they already flag and hand over info to Feds when pressed; this data has to go somewhere, even if front-end is regularly flushed). Perhaps deeper cookie/indexing log/data something, hence compromise of servers major deal for users, hence 4chan’s stern warning for users to flush personal DNS cache? Whatever it is, something in the water doesn’t taste quite right. (implications: could potentially build up criminal folder on anons accessing illegal/potentially illegal or otherwise embarrassing content, anything from torrents to kiddie porn? ALL IS FULL OF UNCLEAR)

Update: this is probably wrong. More likely that hackers unlocked access logs, which could be stitched together with other data, much more compromising data, which could potentially unmask browsing history and potentially actual rl identity of who knows how many anons.

More as the story develops.

I Have No Idea

June 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Lastly, there was no political motive here, we will not tell lies and pretend that it was all to fight an injustice. This was for the lulz. This was for the fame. This was done because only we have the skill to do it. This was done, so that we can laugh at your butthurt. We did it because we can. 

If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”  ~Thomas A Edison

….quote from UGNazi press release today re: 4chan hack. Admins at 4chan urging users to delete DNS cache, which is serious business, and also begs many questions. Like…..wait, what? How do you compromise data on 4chan?

And also this today, blowback against Jennifer Emick, noted anti-Anon (apparently she outed Sabu?). Doesn’t seem connected, but coincidences are rarely a coincidence (also per the article, “For about a year, Anonymous has been the Internet’s greatest spectacle: raucous hacks, federal takedowns, scheming, betrayal and giggles” — again, what?? I have literally never read a weirder article about Anonymous).

Bizarre day, I dunno.

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