Trolling for the Lulz?: Using Media Theory to Understand Transgressive Humour and Other Internet Trolling in Online Communities

Trolling for the Lulz?: Using Media Theory to Understand Transgressive Humour and Other Internet Trolling in Online Communities

Jonathan Bishop (Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems, Belgium)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6038-0.ch011
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Abstract

Internet trolling as a term has changed in meaning since it first entered mainstream use on the Internet in the 1990s. In the 2010s, it has come to refer to the posting of provocative or offensive messages on the Internet to harm others. This change in usage of the term opens up new challenges for understanding the phenomenon, especially as some are still resistant to taking it beyond its original meaning. This chapter tries to distinguish the 1990s kind from the 2010s kind by referring to the former as classical trolling and the latter as anonymous trolling. Taking part in the former is considered to be “trolling for the Lolz” (i.e. positive) and the second to mean “trolling for the Lulz” (i.e. negative). Through using document and genre analysis, this chapter finds that there are common ways in which anonymous trolling manifests differently on different platforms. The chapter concludes by presenting a model for understanding which genres of online community are at risk for particular types of trolling.
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Background

The change in meaning of Internet trolling has created a divide between the traditionalists who want it to have the classical meaning, and those who want it to have the Anonymous meaning. The character theory in Table 1 by Bishop (2012b, 2013c, 2014) could provide a means to resolve this dispute. When spoken about in terms of classical trolling, those who troll could be called, ‘Trolls’ (with the capital ‘T’) and those who take part in Anonymous trolling could be called, ‘trolls’ as is commonly done by the media. Trolls are not the only type of Internet users who take part in trolling, as there are many others, as can be seen from Table 1. Online community users, which include Trolls, are known collectively as trollers (Bishop, 2012b; Bishop, 2014; Herring et al., 2002).

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