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.
September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
Chris –of “my boyfriend” fame– has just sifted through some analytics that illustrate, with numbers, the thing some of us have long suspected: namely that the ROFL space (variously known as memeshit, internet culture, and/or web culture), which once shared a great deal of subcultural overlap with Anonymous (here I mean little-a anon), has plateaued. I am both shaking my head in sadness and tenting my fingers, who knows what that even means!
The full article is well worth a read, but here’s a quote that follows the first of a series of Google Insight charts (which measure fluctuations in search volume over time):
Well, if there’s one thing that can be ascertained from this chart, it’s that as of February, “memes” have reached a ceiling. At the very least the phase of exponential growth that lasted from 2008 until about last January is over. And if there’s a second thing to be learned, it’s that Anonymous (or at least what we knew as the lulz-driven Anonymous) is effectively dead.
This is a controversial and potentially even counterintuitive thing to say, given the mass popularity of memes. But he’s not saying memes are GONE, rather that this particular iteration of this particular memescape is no longer on the upswing. Still — I await the internet’s response…
September 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
Yes yes, this news is 12 hours old — I’m just now posting about Adrian Chen’s shoe and tutu-themed Glamour Shot because today was the first day of classes (well, the first day of my class), and one simply cannot write blog entries about that one time Anonymous said they did a thing and Adrian Chen responded trollishly whilst discussing one’s attendance policy.
So. Anonymous threatened to withhold any further information about an alleged hack on an alleged FBI cybersecurity agent, allegedly, unless Chen outfitted himself in a tutu and balanced a shoe on his head,
Gangnam vintage ytmnd-style. Sounds legit! Chen agreed to Anon’s terms, and as a result, the above image will grace Gawker’s front page until 6:30 tonight.
As someone who studies the homologous relationship between troublemakers (trolls, hackers, etc) and members of the media, I am intrigued by this arrangement. By drawing attention to Anon’s claims, Chen breathed new life into the story. As a result, both Chen and Anonymous achieved their short-term objectives — the ultimate in quid pro quo branding. This is textbook amplification; this is how the process works. What’s unusual about this particular story is that Chen is (read: seems, I don’t know what lurks within the hearts of Gawker writers) fully aware of Anon’s intentions, but has decided to play along anyway — if only to call their bluff.
And this is where the story goes off-script. Usually, the media has no idea (or as the case may be, pretends to have no idea) that they’re ultimately just pawns in the troublemaker’s game. See Jenkem, see Over 9000 Penises. I’m curious to see how –or more interestingly, if– this unholy non-alliance results in the kind of spectacle Anonymous has historically been so adept at creating. I’m inclined to doubt it, since in this case there is no game to win. In fact, Chen’s willingness to play the game means the game has already been called, or at the very least is now Anonymous’ to lose. This is a very smart move on Chen’s part, not just in terms of pageviews, but also because his response –which essentially amounts to “I double-dog dare you”– will likely diffuse what Anon hoped would become the hot new trend in teen trolling. Well played, Gawker. Well played.
Update: Yeah nothing happened, at least on Anon’s end. Both the FBI and Apple have denied Anon’s claims (that Anon acquired 12 million Apple ID names/passwords from the FBI, which acquired them from Apple), which…I mean who knows, corporate henchpeople deny things all the time. But we’re well past Anon’s deadline and there’s been no update to Chen’s Gawker article, and you can bet your bippy that he’d update if there was something worth updating.
June 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
This morning Quinn Norton published a review of Parmy Olson’s contribution to the growing library of Anonshit. The review is…….not positive. Per Norton, Olson’s account is intellectually, technologically and journalistically lazy — a quality informed/exacerbated by Olson’s willingness to give full credence to a small handful of professed liars. In short, Olson does it very wrong, and wrong in ways that ultimately render her account meaningless. There are not enough emoticon winces in the world to convey the OUCH.
Some high -(low?)- lights:
Olson’s technical explanations are stilted, forced, and repetitive. Written in the kludgy language of a non-native speaker who is not particularly interested in the language she’s speaking, they are her weakest point in laying out the landscape of Anonymous (or even Lulzsec). A DDoS attack is flooding a target with junk traffic, 15 men trying to get through a revolving door at the same time, and a flood of visitors — all in the space of a single paragraph in chapter 5.
This kind of journalism is fundamentally disrespectful of technical culture. Like British pop stars singing about being African children, it appropriates and discards the culture as if it were an object. It’s where the idea that all hackers are teenage basement dwellers comes from and it’s a frustrating disservice to an increasingly diverse community that often faces not just social alienation, but prosecution from the US government, and sometimes much worse elsewhere.
We’re all on deadlines, and dealing with tighter budgets and more demands in journalism, but after a point, negligence slips over the line into exploitation. We’re getting it wrong and not caring as long as it draws in readers.
From within Anonymous’s sea of voices, all experimenting with new ways of being in the world, the only voices in Olson’s book are those of the small groups of hackers who stole the limelight from a legion, defied their values, and crashed violently into the law. It was a mediagenic story to be sure, but in the end, it turns out to be not the real story of Anonymous, and not a story with any real meaning.
Full review here, it’s worth the read.
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.
March 31, 2012 § Leave a comment
Well played, Dawson. Well played.
And now, some mood music via Dlisted.
Also, if you’re reading this now, then the artist formally known as Anonymous’ brilliant plan to poop all over the whole internet, aka maybe make it a bit more difficult to load porn for like an hour, was a fail. #phew #nobodybetterlayafingeronmybutterfinger. True to form, they were doing it for the……..well obviously not the lulz, what are those anyway! For the justice? Probably for the justice. And/or the children. My cyberheroes!
March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
Anonymous goes to Toronto Fashion Week!
There are simply not enough sharks in the world to jump over.
March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
Welp, Anon’s day is getting off to a bad start.
November 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity (2004)
When people talk about copyright law they typically think of “piracy” and how they absolutely would download a car. But that’s not the actual issue. Granted, “piracy” –i.e. taking shit without adding any value to whatever thing, “value” of course being a huge wildcard– warrants some form of legal response (proportionate to the thing being “pirated,” I mean let’s be reasonable). The problem is that copyright law is a very dumb machine and hasn’t been programmed to distinguish between “stealing” and “transforming.” All it cares about is copies, and the making/taking of similar — meaning copyright law as it’s currently written ends up prohibiting (at least theoretically) basically everything people do on the Internet. This is fucked up and bullshit and only serves the interests of corporate entities who find themselves in competition with the creativity and innovation of others, thus creating a system in which “fair use” merely means “the right to hire a lawyer” (187). This is very very bad! And runs counter to everything we’ve ever valued as a culture! You know like innovation generally!
Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (2008)
Look you guys. We can go on flipping our shit over anachronistic conceptions of “intellectual property” and “piracy” and the rest. But this war is already a lost war. Continuing to fight only makes things worse, not only by stifling creativity and innovation but by criminalizing the behaviors of an entire generation, i.e. turning our kids into collateral over what basically amounts to a corporate vanity project. Furthermore this war would be a terrible war to win, since the triumph of Read/Only (RO) over Read/Write (RW) content would be bad for everyone. Our culture is, and will continue to be, enhanced by the RW imperative, as mashups and remixes and sampling of every stripe encourages engagement and critical thinking and creativity, all good things. This isn’t to say that RW should replace RO; one benefits and is benefited by the existence of the other, in the same way that commercial and sharing economies are neither logistically not ideally mutually-exclusive. Verily, we’re entering (have already entered!) an era of unprecedented hybridity.
In the first section of Remix, Lessig quotes Victor Stone, a friend and fellow Creative Commons advocate/architect: “You know…this discussion will be over in ten or twenty years. As the boomers die out, and they get over themselves by dying, the generation that follows…just don’t care about this discussion. They just assume that remixing is part of music, and it’s part of the process, and that’s it” (97). I laughed because dying really is the best way to get over oneself, but also because Stone is entirely right — internet people (and especially young ones) just aren’t operating under the same set of assumptions as the current –and increasingly– Old Cultural Guard. The issues that needle at the former don’t needle at the latter, and vice versa.
This reminded me of an early this-changes-everything Copernican revolution moment brought on by someone else’s offhanded comment — in this case my dear brother, who in terms of intellectual influence is rivaled only by my shadowy consultant. This was way way back in August of 2009, before I knew shit about shit. Despite that (not knowing shit about things has never stopped me before), I’d written a short thing about the Obama-as-Socialist-Joker poster that had been cropping up on Los Angeles freeways. This is the work of Anonymous, I argued, and outlined the connection between this particular iteration of the Obama/Joker image and 4chan. A few days after my piece was published (I’d link, but can’t remember what all I wrote and would need to read it again, due to vanity; I’m afraid I’ll want to kill myself when it turns out I was an idiot), a reporter from the Los Angeles Times identified the artist as one Firas Alkhateeb, a college student from Chicago who has posted the (uncaptioned) image to his Flickr account. Alkhateeb didn’t know how his image ended up in Los Angeles, and didn’t know who added the “socialism.” Still, mystery apparently solved!
I first heard the news while shopping in a Humboldt County Target— two separate friends of mine, both eager to undermine my original argument, had emailed me the headline within an hour of its posting (dicks). As I stood in the Cookware aisle, helping my brother pick out plates for his dorm room and scanning the Times article on my phone, I began second-guessing my argument. What if the Obama/socialism/Joker image really was the work of a single author? Did that invalidate my entire analysis? Basically, fuck. I asked my brother, a CS student and sometimes-troll, what he thought. He wasn’t impressed –his “meh” shirt already suggesting as much– and told me not to worry. “Newspapers get most things wrong about the internet,” he said. The kid may have uploaded the image, but that didn’t mean anything; as soon as something goes online, it belongs to everyone. Saying that any one person is responsible for any one thing online is stupid, because you can’t. Also meh. This really was a cartoon lightbulb moment, and for the first time illustrated the profound, even ideological tension between how the old guard sees the world and how the new guard lives in it. Hence my appreciation of the above quote, the end.