'I Am In No Way This’: Troll Hunters and Pragmatic Digital Self-Reference

Authors

  • Michael Lee Humphrey Colorado State University, USA

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.21153/ps2017vol3no2art673

Keywords:

Internet persona, troll-hunting, digital self, anonymity, narrative of self

Abstract

If personae are masks used to communicate a certain character in performance, what happens in rapid unmaskings, especially as they occur in digital space? That question is central to the phenomenon of “troll-hunting”. Employing both journalistic and algorithmic tools, troll hunters unmask the offline identity of purveyors of digital hate speech, child pornography, illegal commerce and sometimes just puckish behaviour. Digital citizens have concerned themselves with the efficacy, privacy and ethics of such hunting, but have not as frequently explored another area: the narrative distance between a digital persona and a perceived “real” person behind that persona. Such distances can range from some version of the sentiment, "I am in no way this kind of person" to a comfortable coupling between online-offline selves, even during public shaming. Using textual analysis, I critically examine statements made by those whose digital troll persona were unmasked. I pay special attention to the word ‘I’ and the dissonance in offline-online personae, long discussed by academics, but also becoming an increasingly practical concern.

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Author Biography

Michael Lee Humphrey, Colorado State University, USA

Michael Humphrey is a Visiting Assistant Professor in digital media and entrepreneurial journalism at Colorado State University, where he also recently completed his Ph.D. in Public Communication. His research focuses on life writing and memory in digital spaces. In addition, he covers digital community and marketing as a contributor for Forbes.com.

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Published

2017-12-13

How to Cite

Humphrey, M. L. (2017). ’I Am In No Way This’: Troll Hunters and Pragmatic Digital Self-Reference. Persona Studies, 3(2), 21–34. https://doi.org/10.21153/ps2017vol3no2art673

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Section

Open Submission Articles