Hey Book 2

March 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

You can't afford NOT to buy it

You can’t afford NOT to buy it

Wow, so hello everyone after literally 6 months of not saying anything because I’m coy. No, not coy. Busy. Revising a book, which if you feel so inclined could be purchased here (hey cool, if you want to buy a used copy it’s only $999.11!). And also starting a second book project with the illustrious Ryan M. Milner of the College of Charleston, whose book on memes just went to contract at MIT (well, to say it’s on MEMES doesn’t really capture it — more like memetic logic, a bigger thing that you should really talk to him about). This second thing is forthcoming with Polity Press in 2017 (-ish), which I am so so excited about and three cheers and all that. Here is the blurb:

Between Play and Hate: Antagonism, Mischief, and Humor Online brings together disparate studies from a wide range of humanities disciplines in order to demystify and help contextualize digitally mediated behaviors that fall somewhere between “play” (that which is not harmless but is also not straightforwardly negative, including crass joking, identity experimentation, and ambiguous media participation) and “hate” (conspicuously damaging behaviors, including cyberbullying, hate speech, and various other malicious antagonisms). This book explores the topic from five vantage points—antagonism, identity play, audience participation, folklore, and humor—and considers key emergent discourses within digital media studies, including the political significance of digitally-mediated content, where the “offline” world ends and the “online” world begins, and the relationship between the digital humanities and traditional humanities. By asking these questions, Between Play and Hate seeks to bring a nuanced, historically situated perspective to discussions of ambivalent online behaviors.

FUN RIGHT?? We’ll also be emphasizing the extent to which technological, economic, and interpersonal infrastructures impact (shape, allow for, encourage, etc) ambiguous behavior online and off. I’ve just been working on the folklore chapter and it is glorious, my friends, just glorious. People were so FILTHY back in the day, as evidenced by this book everyone should read (and speaking of memetic logic). So yeah updates! NOW BEHAVE YOURSELVES.


“Without imputing any malevolence to newspeople”

August 21, 2014 § Leave a comment


The above is a quote from Elliot Oring’s just brilliant analysis of humor in response to the Challenger space disaster. The full quote reads:

Without imputing any malevolence to newspeople, it should be recognized that public disasters are media triumphs. They are what make the news. Indeed, our awareness of national or international disasters is dependent upon the media — particularly television news broadcasting. Furthermore, the frame for communication of information about a disaster is established by the media (282).

And that’s my basic point in this interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, published earlier today, in which I talk about the relationship between trolling and the media that amplifies them. I do very much stand behind my argument, but as always there are caveats.

So, to all the journalists out there who don’t like my tone or (perceived) implications, look guys I know you all have jobs to do, and that you’re often taking orders from editors who are taking orders from better-paid editors, and those editors are taking orders from various levels of bosses, and their bosses’ bosses, bosses all the way up, so it’s not –really this isn’t what I’m saying– that you are personally, individually responsible for the existence and proliferation of trolls. Nor am I suggesting that just NOT reporting on the story of the day is even an option in our crazy mixed up click-based media environment. That said, in order to understand the full extent of the troll problem it is critical to acknowledge the economic systems that undergird & animate & indirectly validate these behaviors. Trolling exists, however uncomfortably, within that system; just talking about the trolls and not the broader media and political economic ecologies in which they exist can really only reveal so much.

In other words: in talking about trolls we are also, and ultimately, talking about capitalism, mic drop.

“The War On Trolls”: Milner, Phillips, Coleman, Citron, Tillman and Dooling Talk Anonymity and Online Troublemakers in The New York Times

August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Screen shot 2014-08-19 at 3.54.56 PM

Well that was fast, and I told you it was about to get interesting! I give you, “The War on Trolls,” per the New York Times’ Room for Debate feature. I’ll give you two guesses as to what we’ll be debating!

On Rethinking Whose Speech to Privilege: Motherboard’s Jason Koebler on the Fark Thing

August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

its beautiful

Just delightful work o’er at VICE’s Motherboard today, where my new best friend Jason Koebler published a really smart overview of online content aggregator Fark’s recent decision to ban misogynistic comments because, hey guess what, misogyny sucks and you can take that shit elsewhere, thanks. The Jezebel rape .gif issue is also addressed, and I’m quoted fairly extensively and I just love this conversation so much. Here’s me saying words:

“I would say that these sorts of decisions are exactly what we need, and in fact align with the spirit of free speech because they actually encourage more speech, not less, and give voice to those who otherwise would be shouted down, drowned out, or scared off,” Whitney Phillips, an internet researcher who is currently working on a book about internet trolls at Humboldt State University, told me.

“I am really pleased to see different sites deciding not to privilege aggressors’ speech over their targets’,” Phillips said. “That tends to be the default position in so many online ‘free speech’ debates which suggest that if you restrict aggressors’ speech, you’re doing a disservice to America—a position that doesn’t take into account the fact that antagonistic speech infringes on the speech of those who are silenced by that kind of abuse.”

This is awesome but things are about to get more interesting, so stay tuned!

Digital Ecologies Research Project: The New Class

August 18, 2014 § Leave a comment


Recently I was invited by my old ROFLbuddy Tim Hwang to join the inaugural class of Digital Ecologies Research Partnership fellows, which of course I did because a) Tim Hwang knows how to throw a party b) my fellow fellows -many of whom hail from the Web Ecology project- are just fantastic and c) having access to partner platforms will open up all kinds of interesting research avenues. The Guardian just published a nice overview of the project, which can be found here. And here’s the official word from DERP:

Launched in 2014, the Digital Ecologies Research Partnership (DERP) is a joint initiative by an alliance of community websites to promote open, publicly accessible, and ethical academic inquiry into the vibrant social dynamics of the web.

DERP seeks to solve two problems in the academic research space:

First, it is difficult for academic researchers to easily obtain data for their work beyond the confines of the largest social media platforms. DERP is a single point of contact for researchers to get in touch with relevant team members across a range of different community sites. We envision that this will lower the friction to investigating these sites in more depth, and broaden the scope of research happening within the academic community.

Second, it remains difficult to conduct good cross-platform analyses in academic research. By bringing a number community of sites together under a single cooperative effort, we intend to lower the friction of doing so, as well as better enable the sites themselves to coordinate with one another on supporting researchers.

DERP focuses on providing public data to academic researchers while facilitating an active online research community of Fellows. DERP will only support research that respects user privacy, responsibly uses data, and meets IRB approval. All research supported by DERP will be released openly and made publicly available. Partner platforms may also have additional guidelines and privacy commitments that apply to the research they support.

In conclusion, go team!

Ryan Milner (and others) on Protest Memes

August 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Smart discussion of visual memes over at Fast Company today, made even smarter with the inclusion of one Ryan M. Milner, my co-author and collaborator guy who has written very interesting things on the subject and in this article both comments on the “hands up don’t shoot” image(s) surrounding the Mike Brown Ferguson shooting and gestures towards his work with and around participatory engagement surrounding Occupy Wall Street. That was a long sentence! Fast Company writer Sarah Kessler does a nice job historicizing the subject, noting that:

The idea of visual memes–units of culture passed between people who make it their own as they go–being used for social movements is not new. A black power salute, a peace sign, and a Nazi salute are all visual shorthand for bigger ideas. Our brains have more space devoted to vision than to any other sense; images pack a punch, and they have been used by social movements from the French revolution to gay rights campaigns to send a message.

So visual images aren’t new, but the ways in which they are transmitted –and remixed, and reappropriated– are. “Because of our participatory media tools,” Milner explains, “because of increased conversation, that image is less static. That kind of iconic image of a protest, of an event, is in everyone’s hands.”

Note that this is a discussion of memes in a broader cultural –as opposed to narrow internet culture/ROFLculture– sense, which is one of the things Ryan’s work does so very nicely and is why everyone should read him, shameless co-author plug, deal with it.

“Web Trolls Winning as Web Incivility Increases”: NYT Article on Trolls That I Am Also In

August 14, 2014 § 3 Comments



Earlier today I talked to the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo about trolling. Unsurprisingly, I was asked a bunch of smart questions and got to talk about the underlying cultural issues that actually dwarf the troll problem, or so-called troll problem because untimely it’s a culture problem. In addition to discussing how the war on trolls isn’t actually about trolls, but rather is all the other wars (sexism, racism, classism, ablism) made manifest, we talked about the media’s role in perpetuating trollish behaviors, including the Zelda Williams case (short version: some assholes decided it would be fun to taunt Robin Williams’ grieving daughter on social media; major media outlets picked up on the story; trolling shitstorm ensues) which reminds me a bit of the “Holmies” case which I discuss here. And we talked definitions, (often unfounded) moral panic over anonymity, platform moderation, and why oh why anyone would be inclined to value a troll’s speech (and in this instance I meant troll in the widest sense, i.e. just some rando online aggressor) over their targets’ speech, and why the argument that people should just get off the internet if they don’t like being abused is myopic and deeply gross and nestles into larger issues of systemic sexism/racism/all the other -isms and SMASH THE PATRIARCHY, etc.

The article is here, today was pretty fun.