Alright, this is a general kind of “brainstorming” post.
First, I think I’ve narrowed down my topic to (still broadly) “trolling.” See this list of “Top Ten Trolls in Internet History” to get an idea of the phenomenon. So what exactly is trolling? Here’s my best definition, entirely provisional–
Genus: Social Internet Activity
Difference: Purposefully Disruptive——>Species: Purposefully Disruptive Social Activity on the Internet
Properties: Affects and is affected by the medium/media, and therefore its users (this might be the most controversial/fascinating part of my definition)
Accidents: Activity via message boards, “comments,” photos, or videos. Considered “good” or “bad.”
To prove that last point, I have a personal example…. Last night, I attempted to do some low-profile trolling. Where better to start then Youtube videos of Justin Bieber (who I am actually NOT a fan of) and Obama, Romney, and Gingrich. While I had every attempt to troll, it appears my statements were a little too “innocent”-sounding, because in the 4 responses I’ve already received, most of them were polite corrections to my bewildering comment. In a video of Justin Bieber singing to a young baby, I asked (in the aftermath of a recent baby/affair rumor) if that was his first or second child, and that he was surely hurting the baby’s ears holding her in front of a high-decibel speaker–this last part was likely true! The response was, “No, that is his little sister.” ….Not the reaction I was going for!
Now the metaphysical question steps in, if I had the intent to troll, but no one “hears” or understands it, is it still “trolling?” I believe so, but it complicates the issue: How many trolls are going around unnoticed (and underappreciated!).
Regardless of the pressing philosophical issues, I’ve begun reading the beginning of Deleuze and Guattari’s “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.” In setting out their rhizomatic theory, they discuss meaning and communication. They claim that it is “the attribute of the subject to overlook [all the] workings of the matters and the exteriority of its relations.” Basically, communication and knowledge is immeasureably complex, and by being a “subject” you disavow, or ignore, the fragmented multiplicity that is in fact informing your understanding. In this sense, they discuss writing as not so much an act of “signifying,” but an act of “mapping.”
This will likely be the first theoretical framework I’ll use to analyze “trolling” on the internet-system. What is their act? What are they mapping? What points of relation are they drawing? Why is there often so much energy and movement in response to this “mapping?” What are some real-life examples of “trolling” and how are they different? …Look for more to come!
In a final comment about trolling, Levinson has a forgiving definition:”comments for the purpose of inflaming and angering those with different or opposing political opinions.”
But he also has a far less forgiving one: “[the] intentional attempt to bury or disrupt a dialog.” The idea that it seeks to “bury” or end a dialog might prove a bit more difficult if I’m hoping (although a good scientist doesn’t hope, right?) to glean some good from it… But maybe ending an internt dialogue isn’t always the worst thing. (Thanks Dr. Brooks for the Zizek reccommendation, I’ll hopefully have something to say about “Violence” next week.)
Lastly, a different observation of Levinson: HOW MANY TIMES CAN HE PROMOTE HIMSELF IN A BOOK?! Well, I took a bit of a tally for the MySpace and Facebook chapters— he mentions his (1) books, his (2) book character, his (3) podcast, his (4) myspace, (5) Fordham professorship, his (6) association (Media Ecology Association), and his (7) music album….. Okay, maybe some of these aren’t too bad, but 99% of the authors I read don’t mention their personal work in their book. Maybe it’s an extension of the social media. And maybe this is where social media reverses (in the individual) by making the person an extension of itself.
Overall, I found the chapters to be interesting, if not too informing. Maybe it’s the influence of Bemidji State, but he definitely puts a premium on personal experience. Perhaps at the cost of professionally-collected statistics…