On the Condition of Anonymity: Disembodied Exhibitionism and Oblique Trolling Strategies

On the Condition of Anonymity: Disembodied Exhibitionism and Oblique Trolling Strategies

Demetrios Jason Lallas (Union County College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4916-3.ch015
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Abstract

The ambiguity of identity in disembodied communities poses unique challenges in the flow of digital rhetoric. Online anonymity can lead to disinhibition, enabling the practice of trolling: the effort to derail discussion for attention, mischief, and abuse. This chapter examines this phenomenon in various social media contexts, exploring effective practices in recognizing and harnessing trolling.
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The Jeopardy Of Anonymity

Judith Donath was among the pioneers in researching the habit of online anonymous trolling. Her 1999 study, “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community,” is the first to use the term “troll” in serious critical analysis. Status enhancement, she claims, not amusement, motivated early trolls (Donath, 1999). Her study of Usenet chatgroups identifies a poster named Ultimatego, about whom “some readers were intimidated by her intimations of upper-crust social knowledge; others were infuriated by her condescending remarks” (Donath, 1999). Donath introduces the term “trolling” in a quote from a poster regarding Ultimatego’s antics: “Are you familiar with fishing? Trolling is where you set your fishing lines in the water and then slowly go back and forth dragging the bait and hoping for a bite. Trolling on the Net is the same concept – someone baits a post and then waits for the bite on the line and then enjoys the ensuing fight” (Donath, 1999).

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