• Trolling the trolls: Online Forum Users Constructions of the Nature and Properties of Trolling

      Coles, Bryn A.; West, Melanie; Newman University; University of Chester (Computers in Human Behavior, 2016-02-27)
      ‘Trolling’ refers to a specific type of malicious online behaviour, intended to disrupt interactions, aggravate interactional partners and lure them into fruitless argumentation. However, as with other categories, both ‘troll’ and ‘trolling’ may have multiple, inconsistent and incompatible meanings, depending upon the context in which the term is used and the aims of the person using the term. Drawing data from 14 online fora and newspaper comment threads, this paper explores how online users mobilise and make use of the term ‘troll’. Data was analysed from a discursive psychological perspective. Four repertoires describing trolls were identified in posters' online messages: 1) that trolls are easily identifiable; 2) nostalgia; 3) vigilantism; 4) that trolls are nasty. A final theme follows these repertoires – that of identifying trolls. Analysis also revealed that despite repertoire 01, identifying trolls is not a simple and straight-forward task. Similarly to any other rhetorical category, there are tensions inherent in posters' accounts of nature and acceptability of trolling. Neither the category ‘troll’ nor the action of ‘trolling’ has a single, fixed meaning. Either action may be presented as desirable or undesirable, depending upon the aims of the poster at the time of posting.
    • Weaving the internet together: Imagined communities in newspaper comment threads

      Coles, Bryn A.; West, Melanie; Newman University; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2016-07-01)
      Online newspapers (and other spaces) are increasingly seeking to utilise user-generated content alongside professionally developed material. However, this might leave websites increasingly vulnerable to trolls, who work to disrupt online communications in online spaces. Such behaviour can have serious consequences both in peoples online and offline lives, and for the development of coherent online communities. One means of controlling is through the manipulation of the online space to create social norms of polite behaviour through the founding of ‘imagined communities’ online. Approaching the issue from a discursive psychological perspective, this paper draws upon comments published in two online British newspaper comment sections responding to the publication of an academic article on trolling. Imagined communities are shown to arise irrespective of the presence of the virtual infrastructure to support the development of these imagined communities. Key features of imagined communities identified here are: individuation (as opposed to deindividuation); mutual influence between posters; shared history for both the users and the online space; the use of humour to cement social bonds. Analysis also revealed tensions in posters understanding of online and offline behaviours. This research holds implications for understanding online spaces, and the interactions between users within these spaces.