August 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Juggalos might not always troll, but when they do, they're actually being serious

Tom Boellstorff, Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human (2008)

Collapsing boundary between “real” and “virtual.” RL culture as our “killer app.” Digital ethnography is a thing. The Age of Techne, i.e. technological interpolation. Homo cyber. Histories of virtual world. Holy shit, that lit review. Method. More method. Participant observation. Ethics. Place and time. “The self.” Sex and relationships. Community and its threats. Kindness and griefing. Political economy. Relationship between platform and practice.

Judith Donath, “Identity and Deception” (1998)

Identity is a thing online and irl. There is always a body, the body is synonymous with identity. Identity is foundational to the creation of online community. People expect the things they see on Usenet to be true, including the identities they encounter. But can’t verify online as they could irl, neither assessment nor conventional signals to interpret. I mean there are clues. Like user ID stuff. And how people talk, like actually how they use their words. Style or whatever. And their chosen signatures. But even these aren’t always reliable/verifiable. Opening the possibility for identity deception, also known as “trolling.” Which is a big deal you guys because that sort of plop makes people paranoid, undermines trust within and cohesion of a given community, and the internet is supposed to be saaaaafe, what should we dooooo???

Julian Dibbell, “Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the Sociopaths of the Virtual World” (2008) 

OH MY GOD AND FUCK, people do all sorts of wacky shit on the “Second Life,” that online thing everyone says exists! Let me tell you about the Patriotic Nigras, a group of griefers who totally griefed the shit outta everyone! And got banned, but kept coming back & back! An I’mana let you finish, but here’s a quick reference to Habbo Hotel LOLOL, and how the pool is closed due to Lupus. Yeah I’m totally talking about trolls, I keep referencing “lulz” and /b/tards plus even make a reference to the FBI party van, but apparently this article is about griefers, so I’ll stick with that. Anyway. These “Goons,” as Something Awful trolls are called, discovered Second Life and were like, THIS IS THE WORST PLACE EVER, let’s kill it. So they did! Paying especial attention to SL’s resident cadre of furries, because lol. There’s also stuff about money here, making it serious business in the literal sense. And the guy behind Something Awful, Rich Kyanka, who isn’t Christopher Poole at all. This is all very confusing? I CALL SHENANIGANS.


What I’ve learned from these fine scholars

For my first trick, I decided to take on the handful of selections which deal with transgressive online behavior. Couple of reasons for this. First, transgressive online behavior is my jam. But also, and on a related point, and probably more importantly, the very concept of online transgression is seriously weird. Yet for some reason it’s taken as a kind of given — like, certain things are just bizarre, and certain things are just shitty, and certain things are just mean, end of story. But what counts as transgressive is not a given, it’s not natural and necessary, nor is it arbitrary. “Transgression,” after all, implies that there is some established thing being transgressed against. This is the same old Mary Douglas shit I’ve been bleating about all summer — there can’t be matter out of place if there ain’t some proscribed place for the matter to go. Meaning that the concept of dirt is preceded, and logically must be preceded, by the concept of purity.

The fact that certain behaviors have, from the very outset, been designated aberrational is therefore significant. Especially when you consider that online “deception” and “disruption” are at the root of almost all moral outrage, starting with Judith Donath — implying that the idealized state of digital nature is one of credibility and continuity. But why would anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes online, and certainly why would anyone who’s been online from the beginning, assume that “credibility” and “continuity” a) would even be possible, given the elusiveness of those qualities in so-called real life and b) would be the desirable state of online affairs? —-all of which suggests to me that “transgression” as a concept needs serious reexamination. Or not even reexamination, since that implies there’s something there to consider again.

In conclusion, there’s a huge disconnect between how people have theorized the internet (as some utopian space of democracy and love or whatever) and what people actually experience online (dicks everywhere). I have my theories about why this might be, mostly in connection with the ideological situatedness of the people who were, and continue to be, given an audience, but that’s a post for another day.



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