Friday, 2 November 2012

Infectious Trolls

The frequency and popularity of trolling appears to be on the increase. This phenomenon seems to me infectious and viral, as more people are being drawn into the activity, or starting to think of it as normal behaviour.

But there is always the tendency to forget that what appears new may have been around for some time. We quickly forget the indignities of the past.

Many cultural commentators suggest that we are losing a sense of dignity and respect.

But does the Troll phenomenon precede the emergence of internet subcultures?

Is it the widening social participation of the internet, and the speed interactivity, that really fuels the apparent trending of Trollery?

Here there appears to be a sense of social or cultural prejudice, that the Trolls are the uneducated masses who have failed to learn the polite discourse and dialogue of enlightened conversational spaces.

None the less, I've recently witnessed troll fireworks in an academic list devoted to eighteenth-century studies. The reputation of Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist historian, was also fiercely debated recently on the same email discussion list. Again there was the sense of ephemeral and careless attacks, with others fanning the flames in other ways.

Witnessing these happenings I began to speculate about the clarity of the dividing line between the belligerent displays of antagoniosts and the monstrous behaviour of the iconoclastic Trolls.

I'm awaiting the issue of a discussion concerning the origins of immoderate debate from the academic list, and will supplement this blog when responses are communicated to me.

Bcakground: from Wikipedia:

"In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. The noun troll may refer to the provocative message itself, as in: "That was an excellent troll you posted."

While the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, media attention in recent years has made such labels subjective, with trolling describing intentionally provocative actions and harassment outside of an online context. For example, mass media has used troll to describe "a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families."

Last year the BBC reported:

"For some the word derives from a fishing term for towing bait behind a boat, for others it comes from the Norse monsters. But today trolling is more likely to involve a keyboard and mouse than a trawler, and if not a monster, it is a very modern menace.
Opponents might characterise it as the internet equivalent of road rage, vandalising a grave, or kicking a man when he's down.
Trolling is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years. Online forums, Facebook pages and newspaper comment forms are bombarded with insults, provocations or threats. Supporters argue it's about humour, mischief and freedom of speech. But for many the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse verges on hate speech."
"We're all capable of becoming a troll, says Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist in the US and author of You Are Not A Gadget. Lanier admits he has sometimes behaved badly online and believes the cloak of anonymity can encourage people to react in extreme ways.
"The temptation is there and we can get caught up in impulses. If someone reacts, it's emotional and it can be hard to get out of. We can all become trolls."

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