• Weaving the internet together: Imagined communities in newspaper comment threads

      Coles, Bryn A.; West, Melanie; Newman University; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2016-07)
      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.