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HASTAC scholar Whitney Phillips on transgressive humor and cyber-trolling

HASTAC scholar and English PhD student Whitney Phillips is on record about the sleazy practice of cyber-trolling (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7283797.html), but tonight will be part of an Oregon Think Tank panel titled Why Do We Laugh? The Psychology & Culture of Humor, November 9, 7:00-8:30PM in the Living Learning Center Performance Hall.

This interdisciplinary panel discussion will explore cultural and psychological origins and meaning of humor and comedy. Why Do We Laugh panelists:

Whitney Phillips is a third-year PhD student with a structured emphasis in Folklore, and writing instructor in the English department. She studies online culture, specifically transgressive humor within trolling and gaming subcultures, and is particularly interested in the constitutive aspects of viral humor, the metacommunicative signaling necessary to subcultural formation and what she refers to as rhizomatic reception theory, an approach to online content that attempts to bypass traditional accounts of the individual artist/author. Recent projects include an explication of “post-irony,” a comedic aesthetic inherent to and, as she argues, necessitated by online discourse, a discussion of the Obama/Joker/socialism macro (to read a version, see this Henry Jenkins post: http://www.henryjenkins.org/2009/08/unmasking_the_joker.html) and several ethnographic accounts of trolling behaviors, both on 4chan/b/ and Facebook memorial pages.

Michael Jenkins is a professional comedian and one-half of the professional bi-racial comedy team, “the Others Brothers.”   Michael will open the evening by performing 15 minutes of his interactive act on stage, with assistance from audience volunteers, and then join the panel as a speaker.  A favorite everywhere, audiences and critics are saying great things about the musical comedy of Michael Jenkins. The ONLY electric ukulele playing comedian in the known world. Michael has performed in and “headlines” for comedy clubs and events all over North America, including the Oregon State Fair and Expo, Harvey’s Comedy Club, Chinook Winds Casino, Spirit Mountain Casino and the 2002 & 2003 Bite, Portland’s largest outdoor  food festival. Michael has also recently toured with Jimmy “JJ” Walker from the 70’s TV show “Good Times” and the “Gong Shows” Legendary Unknown Comic. Mike’s credits include appearances on “The Comedy Channel” and “Americas Funniest People.”

Heidi Connole is Instructor of Leadership and Communication, with the Lundquist College of Business.   Heidi will be discussing the topic of “leadership humor” and its role in mediating conflict, alleviating anxiety, and inspiring confidence.  Connole’s PhD is from the College of Business and Economics at Washington State University. She was previously the faculty team leader for the University of Idaho’s executive MBA program and held teaching positions at the United States Army War College, Washington State University, and The University of Montana. In addition to teaching leadership and communication classes, Connole will be co-developing a professional writing program for undergraduates.

For more information about Living Learning Communities in Residence Life please visit the Living Learning Initiatives Website in University Housing:http://housing.uoregon.edu/reshalls/academic_programs.php


3 Responses

  1. Whitney Phillips doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She clumps three independent online community characters into one, calling them cyber-trolls. She should read my paper on the subject:

    The people who are always trying to hurt or offend others are Snerts, and the ones always trying to destroy the status quo are Iconoclasts. Trolls are actually people using online community for humour, and while some over-step the mark, their intentions are not usually to harm, as Ms Phillips thinks.

    She also said troll comes from fishing – No that is trawling, looking for information and opportunity. Trolling comes from the story of the three goats, where a troll was under the bridge.

    • Dear JB,

      As one who grew up trolling for bluefish and mackerel on the Atlantic just off the North Carolina coast, I have to amend your correction. “Trolling” does indeed denote fishing with one or more lines (with single or multiple hooks) trailing the boat. “Trawling” is a similar act, but with a net. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolling_%28fishing%29.

      However, in online “trolling” there is a delicious conflation of the concept of a troll awaiting victims, and a baited line designed to hook the unwitting.

      Robert Long for UODS

  2. Dear Robert Thilllong,

    I am a Masters student in England doing a documentary on trolling. I was wondering if there was anyway of privately communicating either via email or skype to talk to you or Whitney about your thoughts on trolling.

    Would appreciate a reply as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you,


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