The interactions that take place on the Internet have always intrigued me alittle, as the intimate societies and cultures that occur online often take on a form which generally would not occur in real life. For example when you go to a movie, you usually try to see a film that you think you might like (probably based on genre, actors and directors, etc.) in order to gain an enjoyable viewing expierence.
However when you watch a clip on youtube, the same selection does not particuarly occur. Alot of the time viewing media on the internet can revolve entirely around how eye-wateringly terrible something is. More to the point, real-world culural identity does not always apply when selecting media to participate in. Probably the best example of this, would have to be one of the numerous ‘screamo’ covers of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” that are availible for your viewing pleasure right here.
The aspect of this cultural confusion I find most intersting though, would have to be the phenomenon of ‘Trolling’.
Causing people to flip into bouts of rage is a predicament most individuals do not wish to obtain in real-life (unless they enjoy having the crap beaten out of them), however doing so online usually has no such ramifications. As a result, the act of purposely causing anger or discomfort in groups of individuals has become a some-what popular passtime in the virtual world, and is commonly known as ‘trolling’.
While trolling can be fun, it also raises some serious ethical issues regarding the nature of online communities, and the proper etiquette of interactions that occur within them. For example, while satirising a religious organisation can be interpreted as harmless and legal, insensitivly defacing a facebook page dedicated to deceased children will land you three years in the slammer.
The difference between the two stories above is obvious in the context of moral judgement, however our morality is mostly relative to the world in which we live, and is therefore subject to change (be it conscious or otherwise) when applied on the Internet.
For this reason, trolling takes on a ambiguous meaning when moving into the future. While we recognise acts of violence in video games to be isolated events occuring within the virtual world, abuse and mental anguish as delivered via virtual media only serves to blur the definition of what we understand to be a real interaction.
Ultimatly, the art of ‘trolling’ is likely here to stay, with the importance of being able to spot a troll even being stressed by istitutions such as the Idnianna University’s Internet Technology service. However, the main conclusion will eventually be how society deals with the cultural phenomenon moving into the future. Until then, remember… dont feed the trolls!