My Book, Officially Forthcoming with MIT Press

February 13, 2014 § 38 Comments

sagan trollsss

It is with great excitement, gratitude, and relief (all of the emotions really) that I can finally officially announce that my book on trolls (a millionth-degree revision of my PhD dissertation) will be published by The MIT Press in early 2015. 

Book abstract:

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture chronicles the emergence and evolution of online trolling, a wildly popular behavioral practice predicated on meme creation, forum raiding, and general disruption. It focuses specifically on behaviors born of and associated with 4chan’s /b/ board, one of the Internet’s most infamous and active trolling hotspots.

Pulling from thousands of hours of participant observation, dozens of formal interviews with participating trolls, and a careful reconstruction of the history of online trolling, the book argues that the so-called troll problem is actually a culture problem. Not only do trolls fit comfortably within the contemporary American media landscape, they effortlessly replicate the most pervasive—and in many cases outright venerated—tropes in the Western tradition. Trolls may take these tropes to their furthest and most grotesque extremes, but at a very basic level, trolls’ actions are born of and fueled by culturally sanctioned impulses, immediately complicating the impulse to condemn trolls for their obscene and seemingly deviant behavior. These behaviors may well be obscene, but as this book illustrates, the most surprising thing about trolling is that it isn’t all that deviant. In fact, in ostensibly non-trolling contexts, similar behaviors are regarded as perfectly acceptable, if not desirable. Ultimately then, the book isn’t just about trolls. It’s about a culture in which trolls thrive.

This truly has been a long, weird road; for anyone interested in taking a trip down memory lane, here I am comparing my dissertation to The Human Centipede; here I am fretting about losing the ability to speak English during my dissertation defense; here I am smashing my head against the table post-deposit; here I am likening the process of writing a dissertation to The Shining; here I am dancing around the complex psycho-sexual relationship I have with my manuscript; here I am discussing my overall writing process and offering some SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK OR DISSERTATION tips. Good times!

How to Write a Dissertation or Book the Whitney Phillips™ Way

January 30, 2014 § 3 Comments

Lately I’ve had books and writing and writing books and writing about writing books on the brain. So, when my friend and fellow PhD-guy Patrick reached out asking for dissertation writing tips, I was happy to oblige. In the process of obliging, I realized I’d never written anything about my writing process, or even the act of writing generally, on this here blog. And that’s too bad because boy do I have some thoughts on the subject!

The following is a modified version of my response to Patrick, and forwards four tips that might be somewhat helpful to those just embarking on the road to dissertation glory, and/or any large or otherwise daunting writing project. But a caveat: I’m not saying any of this is the right way, just that’s it’s my way. The right way is whatever way works for you, you special snowflake!

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