Thursday, April 13, 2017

"The Art of Trolling: A Philosophical History of Rhetoric"

Via Reddit:  The history of trolling is a history of rhetoric. This particular history of rhetoric is steeped in philosophy and mythology, spanning across cultures, continents, and time. Although trolling principally correlates with the rising popularity of digital spaces native to social media, blogs, and comment sections on websites, trolling as a form of rhetoric predates the internet entirely. But this does not mean that digital spaces have not enabled a new kind of trolling to evolve within the advent of the internet. The goal of this investigation is not to provide a definitive history of trolling or its involvement within specific subsets of internet trolls, e.g. the Alt-Right Movement. Instead, I mean this as a thoughtful meditation upon how the phenomena we understand as “trolling” has emerged within multiple cultures and has transformed within recent memory. Looking at these origins, we may glean that although trolling has since gathered dubious and often divisive connotations, its origins stem from “heroic” traditions and celebrated figureheads in academia.

Trolling Defined

Trolling itself may be understood as any of the following:
  1. To “make a deliberately offensive or provocative online post with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them” (Oxford Living Dictionary).
  2. “The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off, usually via the internet, using dialogue… The most essential part of trolling is convincing your victim that either a) truly believe in what you are saying, no matter how outrageous, or b) give your victim malicious instructions, under the guise of help.” (Urban Dictionary).
  3. To sow “discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response, or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement” (Wikipedia).
Although Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia may arguably be less scholarly sources than the Oxford Living Dictionary, granted that trolling as a word used in this way is a more recent phenomenon, we must turn to sources like Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia until the more “academy appropriate” tracts produces more thorough understandings of “the art” of trolling. Each definition provided above highlights a different aspect of a similar phenomena, although these definitions all place that phenomena within a digital space. For our purposes here, as implied within the abbreviated history of rhetoric, trolling is not limited to digital spaces.

(Link to the rest of the article)


edutcher said...

I'd quarrel with the definitions in the sense most trolling is more annoying, not to mention boring, than anything else.

Very little "cleverly, and secretly" about it.

Sixty Grit said...

Studies show that none of that is true.

So there!

Amartel said...

"The goal of this investigation is not to provide a definitive history of trolling or its involvement within specific subsets of internet trolls, e.g. the Alt-Right Movement."

Interesting that the default example of a troll is an alt-right commenter. (And I doubt the author even knows what "alt-right" is.) Trolling is just a way of disrupting the status quo, getting people to consider a perspective that is outside the conventional wisdom, so for the people who think they're in charge of the status quo and conventional wisdom I can imagine it's annoying. Otherwise, it's interesting. There are different methods of trolling and it can be quite the art. Merely showing up and spraying insults around is not really trolling.

Lem said...

Troll rock star.

ricpic said...

A troll is NOT someone who posts a comment countering the majority opinion on a given thread. It has become so common to answer a contrary comment with the one word dismissal, "Troll," that the term has been rendered almost as meaningless as "Racist."

William said...

Most of the thoughts and feelings that we repress in order to get on with civilization are somewhat trollish. Many people find it liberating to finally be able to tell those troll assholes how irritating they truly are and, in so doing, become trolls themselves. Here on the internet we are all latent trolls.