Web of words: A short history of the troll

Reblogged from CASS.

Over the past fortnight, various broadsheets and media outlets (see bibliography) picked up the story of my recent article, ‘“Uh…..not to be nitpicky,,,,,but…the past tense of drag is dragged, not drug.”: An overview of trolling strategies‘ (2013), which came out in the Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict. Of the thousands of comments collectively posted on those articles, one particularly interesting point that came through (out of many) was the general sense that there exists a single, fixed, canonical definition of the word troll which I ought to be using and had somehow missed.

So what is the definition of troll? In my thesis, I spent a rather lengthy 18,127 words trying to answer precisely this question, and very early on I realised that trying to discover, or, if one didn’t exist, to create a clean, robust, working definition that everyone would agree with would be close to impossible. There are at least three major problems, which for simplicity’s sake are best referred to as history, agreement, and change. Continue reading

Internet trolls: a guide to the different flavours

Reblogged from The Guardian. (NB. NOT my choice of headline. Again.)

In 2007, I began a PhD thesis entitled: “Trolling in computer-mediated communication: impoliteness, deception, and manipulation online.” Six years and countless high-profile trolling incidents later, trolling has become all too common.

Many of us have a working idea of what trolling is – causing mischief online for fun. But fewer of us realise that trolling comes in a wide variety of flavours. A small handful of those in my research include RIP trolls, who spend their time causing misery on memorial sites; fame trolls, who focus all their energies on provoking celebrities; care trolls, who purport to see abuse in every post about children or animals; political trolls who seek to bully MPs out of office; and many others besides. Continue reading