Season 1 | Episode 5: "Trolling"

This week's episode of Zeugma focuses on the practice of Internet trolling. Starting with a quick consideration of the complex etymology of the term, we discuss trolls mythical and real, interview trolling scholar Dr. Whitney Phillips, and get stories and thoughts from two folks with deep ties to trolling communities on Reddit and the game Eve Online.

Trigger Warning: Due to discussions of last fall's Violentacrez controversy, as well as the sexist, racist, and homophobic tropes commonplace in many trolling practices, this episode contains references to potentially disturbing subject matter. 

The episode can be streamed via the player below or downloaded via iTunes and our LibSyn profile.

image via Wikimedia Commons

Episode Producer: Eric Detweiler

Today's episode begins with consideration of two historical connotations of the term "troll." First, there's the mythical Scandinavian creature. And there is the trolling motor: A quiet, low-speed method of boat propulsion used in fishing. One eats humans and lurks in shadows; one makes a quiet pastime a bit easier. Both, it turns out, have potential ties to the etymological origins of Internet trolling--the main focus of this episode.

In our first segment, we speak with Dr. Whitney Phillips, a trolling scholar who is currently a lecturer at New York University. Dr. Phillips discusses the history of trolling, the cultural incubators that inadvertently foster it, and her Atlantic article on last fall's controversy surrounding Reddit user Violentacrez.

Given the difficulty of defining and generalizing about trolls and trolling practices, we turn next to interviewing two members of online communities of which trolling is a significant part. In these two interviews, Zeugma team members and listeners get an inside glimpse of what roles trolling plays on Reddit--the self-proclaimed "front page of the Internet"--and the massive muliplayer online game Eve Online.