Comment 51788

By bobster (registered) | Posted November 17, 2010 at 16:08:48

The troll is also a creature of a failure of civility. He would never behave the way he does in front of his friends, but here there are no consequences. Maybe one day we won't be able to get away from our online personalities; we will have invested so much into our profiles and reputations in a virtual community that to re-enter another community will require hard work and to be exiled will be a real punishment. But right now the troll can lazily appear and disappear in various forums, buoyed by the power of the points he feels he has scored with his forum posts. These points are based on the real world; were he to be discussing peak oil with his brother he imagines himself levying the same comments with devastating effect. And yet this referent is false, his brother would not be persuaded so easily because he knows his brother is lazy and doesn't apply himself. Similarly readers of the forum don't feel the troll has made a contribution, but they feel viscerally that something is wrong with him, because their norms are also drawn from the real world, where people don't interrupt you rudely in conversation. These readers also mistakenly base their reaction on real-world communities, where the troll would never have gained entry. One day these frames of reference will be different and people won't view an online forum as this fantasy space of inconsequential expression, but for now we are beset between the troll and the anti-troll: an overly generous and inclusive reader and website designer and their crude downvote.

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