Welcome to Multimedia Studies Whitney Phillips!

I read on on the blog of Whitney Phillips, the English PhD graduate who misrepresented the flame trollers on 4chan as “trolls”, an article by her that she is apparently running a “new course” on New Media.

Well Whitney Phillips, welcome to the world of Multimedia Studies! I did this module over ten years ago! In fact I did two courses on New Media – One called ‘New Media Cutures’ and one called ‘New Media Societies’.

They were put together as a way to bridge the Multimedia Computing modules accredited by BCS – the Chartered Institute for IT with the Media Studies and Media Practice Modules. The pioneer behind this course which I completed, the BSc(Hons) in Multimedia Studies was Dr Mike Reddy, now a Senior Lecturer at Newport University which is merging with Glamorgan where he designed the course.

Mike Reddy’s degree has spawed many PhDs and other leading professionals. One of the leading advocates of using Activity Theory in Participatory Design, Dr Steve Harris is one such example.

Multimedia Studies is now taught at many universities, and even has its own Wikipedia article.

This lack of appreciation of existing concepts seems evident in Whitney Phillips’s work. I was in fact talking to my sister, a PhD supervisor, about how I think literature surveys should be an important part of the PhD process and regularly updated throughout the programme of study. Had Whitney Phillips done a literature survey she would have come across my work on trolling and new media culture, including this paper, first published in 2008, which in my view her PhD appears to be a replication of. You can see the stark similarities in the table below.

 Whitney Phillips’s 2012 PhD Abstract Extracts from my 2008 Research Chapter

Ethnographic in approach, this dissertation examines trolling, an online subculture devoted to meme creation and social disruption. Rather than framing trolling behaviors as fundamentally aberrant, I argue that trolls are agents of cultural digestion; they scour the landscape, repurpose the most exploitable material, then shove the resulting monstrosities into the faces of an unsuspecting populace.

Undertaking the ethnography proved to be time consuming, though revealing about the nature of online communities and the characteristics of theactors that use them. Of the eleven characters iden-tified in the proposed character theory, eight werefound in the investigated online community.

 

Within the political and social context of the United States, the region to which I have restricted my focus, I argue that trolls digest and often perform a grotesque pantomime of a number of pervasive cultural logics, including masculine domination (Bourdieu 2001) and white privilege (Dyer 1997).

The rise of online communities in Internet environments has set in motion an unprecedented shift in power from vendors of goods and services to the customers who buy them, with those vendors who understand this transfer of power and choose to capi-talize on it by organizing online communities and being richly rewarded with both peerless customer loyalty and impressive economic returns.

Additionally, I argue that the rhetorical and behavioral tactics embraced by trolls, including sensationalism, spectacle, and emotional exploitation, are homologous to tactics routinely deployed by American corporate media outlets. In short, trolling operates within existing systems, not in contrast to, immediately complicating, and often ironizing, knee-jerk condemnations of trolling behaviors.

The ecological cognition framework has the potential to radically transform minor Web sites into highly persuasive and engaging communities where relationships between vendors and customers can be enhanced and the goals of each can be met. While there is also the possibility that a corporation that understands online communities can manipulate its members in such a way that it can easily exploit them, the model could be used by vendors with more of an interest in helping customers meet their goals to market their products and services effectively.

Whitney Phillips’s PhD

Whitney Phillip’s is an English graduate who did a PhD involving Internet trolling, titled, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling“. She posted her PhD’s abstract on her blog. I will quote it verbatum:

Ethnographic in approach, this dissertation examines trolling, an online subculture devoted to meme creation and social disruption. Rather than framing trolling behaviors as fundamentally aberrant, I argue that trolls are agents of cultural digestion; they scour the landscape, repurpose the most exploitable material, then shove the resulting monstrosities into the faces of an unsuspecting populace. 

Within the political and social context of the United States, the region to which I have restricted my focus, I argue that trolls digest and often perform a grotesque pantomime of a number of pervasive cultural logics, including masculine domination (Bourdieu 2001) and white privilege (Dyer 1997). Additionally, I argue that the rhetorical and behavioral tactics embraced by trolls, including sensationalism, spectacle, and emotional exploitation, are homologous to tactics routinely deployed by American corporate media outlets. In short, trolling operates within existing systems, not in contrast to, immediately complicating, and often ironizing, knee-jerk condemnations of trolling behaviors.

Criteria for a PhD

Most universities require a PhD to be an ‘independent and original contribution to knowledge’. Phillip’s work from this abstract seems to be a re-run of my work, so not original. I will set out how below.

My 2008 Book Chapter

In my 2008 book chapter, titled, ‘Increasing capital revenue in social networking communities: Building social and economic relationships through avatars and characters‘ I presented a two-year long ethnography of two online communities. One a message board and the other Second Life. Phillip’s thesis, titled “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling,” speaks about ‘white privilege’ in relation to her findings on the characteristic, whereas I made a similar finding – how online community sub-cultures follow Black stereotypes. Phillips talks about ‘masculine domination’, and I also found a type of sub-culture that was ‘Patriarchal’ in the avatars they used.

I found that a character called ‘The Snert‘ was more what Phillips has meant by “trolls” and I said so in a letter to the Daily Mail in March 2011 for which I won Letter of the Week. I found how this character would post sensationally offensive comments, especially one called JH, for which 60% of his posts were flames. I also found out how the ‘Troll’ which was a playful character used emotional manipulation. In this case a character called ‘Pussy Galore’ posted how she enjoyed ‘baiting’ me. That fact that Phillips also found this shows replication and not originality.

Philips makes links between the representations of this ‘white privilege’ and sensationalism etc. in the American media in her thesis, titled. “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling.” Equally, in my chapter, I make links between the successful Black people in American and World corporations and the way they are reflected in online communities.

Phillips, in her thesis (i.e. ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling’) concludes that trolling operates within existing systems, which is virtually identical to my conclusion that online communities can be viewed as a type of media and approached no differently to other media in terms of stereotypes for instance.

Conclusion

Did Phillips really make an original contribution to knowledge? Based on this abstract, I don’t think so!