inb4 Apologist

February 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

Welcome to the internet

For the last few days I’ve been struggling to implement a few prospectus revisions suggested by my dissertation committee. Luckily they are good suggestions (my committee kicks ass), and will make for very good revisions, in large part because these are the kinds of criticisms I’m likely to encounter when my work goes public. Specifically, that I’m an apologist for all forms of trolling; that I have Stockholm syndrome (an actual accusation in the wake of the RIP article and subsequent media coverage); generally that I am “too close” to my object of study.

My approach is not to avoid these kinds of criticisms, but to preemptively respond. I’m calling the section “Putting the I in Troll,” and will directly address my often complicated relationship with trolling and the trolls I study. My argument is not that I DON’T have a complicated relationship with trolling subculture; I absolutely do. My argument is that, in order to forward an analysis that says anything worth saying, I NEED to have a complicated relationship with trolling, an idea reflected in this article (particularly #4), which I just saw this morning but spells out my position pretty succinctly.

For the record I don’t think –and this is a point I raise in the prospectus– that all forms of trolling are necessarily bad, or that all trolls should be wiped from the internet (as if that would even be possible). I do however think that people should figure out what the hell they’re talking about before they start talking. Condemnation without understanding does little to address whatever existing problem, and in fact might just make the problem worse. This was precisely the problem with SOPA  (“people are file sharing? I know, let’s censor the whole internet!”), and is the problem with many knee-jerk reactions to transgressive online behaviors. Like, figure out what the thing actually is and what the thing actually does before you try to propose a solution.


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