Edited By Jason Wilson, Christian McCrea and Glen Fuller
A great deal of thinking about the Internet and politics is still structured by a desire for deliberative democracy. From 1993 – when Howard Rheingold enunciated one of the Internet’s key founding myths – the virtual community – scholars have sought and found communities characterised by a mutuality of interests, a common purpose, a collaborative striving to renovate the democratic ideal, a tendency towards the “regulative idea” of the ideal speaking position, and an acknowledgement of the obligations of citizenship within the political association. For so long the Internet has continued to function, in Barbrook’s formulation, as a “redemptive technology”. Social media is just the latest in a long line of technologies which may, on a certain vision, rescue liberal democracy, with its decaying civic life and corrupt media, from itself.
There is, proportionally, too little attention to the everyday conflicts that haunt all such communities. Some conflict is temporary, and can be accounted for in terms of long-standing democratic theory. But some conflict is persistent, intractable. Some of it is gratuitous, and deliberately disruptive. Online, those who bring it about are often subject to normative disapprobation. Sometimes people call them trolls.
“Troll”, as a term of moral opprobrium, indicates an online actor who is not interested in deliberation, but in derailing it. Trolling is not apt to be captured by network maps or visualisations of online publics, because these teachniques cannot discern which nodes in a conversational network are created in bad faith, or in a spirit of disruptive play. Trolls are not interested in redeeming democracy through deliberation, and they mock attempts to do so. Trolls respect no procedural rules, though they may be generative of them. Trolls are the constitutive outside of online communities of political discussion, they are the intolerable of the most tolerant communities. Trolls are usually someone else, defined from our own position and interests. When they are not, and we inhabit trolling, we discover that trolling requires know-how, close reading, experience, sometimes sympathy with those we would disrupt.
What are the consequences to seeing trolling and other forms of affective behaviour as the norm, rather than the aberrant? The discourse of digital art has long since told this story, but the intellectual desire for open and constitutive democracy has overridden the ‘actually existing democracy’ of bullying, trolling, threats, inane memes and low signal-to-noise ratios. What would happen if we started to think of trolling as the central practice in online discourse? What if trolling is the Internet’s signature mode of discursive politics? What if we started to think about trolling as a practice which is generative rather than destructive?
This special issue of fibreculture seeks a range of perspectives on trolling, online conflict and incivility. Twenty years on, it looks to interrogate the founding myth of virtual community with accounts of generative conflict, strategic incivility, and productive trolling.
We seek papers on a range of topics not limited to:
Please note that for this issue, initial submissions should be abstracts only
abstract deadline: October 15, 2012 (via email, to Jason Wilson, email address below)
article deadline: January 15, 2012
publication aimed for: April/May, 2013
all contributors and editors must read the guidelines at;
before working with the Fibreculture Journal
email correspondence for this issue:
The Fibreculture Journal (http://fibreculturejournal.org/) is a peer reviewed international journal, associated with Open Humanities Press (http://openhumanitiespress.org/), that explores critical and speculative interventions in the debate and discussions concerning information and communication technologies and their policy frameworks, network cultures and their informational logic, new media forms and their deployment, and the possibilities of socio-technical invention and sustainability.
The Fibreculture Journal already has a full year planned for 2012, with issues on Affect and Interaction and Speculative Utopias.
We will be issuing new CFPs early in 2012 for publication in 2013. Intense discussions are in process. These CFPs may concern media/climate change/environment issues, publishing itself, post-network politics and/or media business models (what these become if one “subtracts” financial Capital from the equation).
So please return around February/March 2012 or subscribe to our feeds. We are of course open to suggestions from the Fibreculture community (which includes you, if you’re reading this!). Our current guidelines (including those for Guest Edited issues) are here.
We are also working on our guidelines for future issues and processes. These will be tightened and streamlined somewhat in order to make us a little more sustainable in terms of workloads.
More importantly, we will be spending some of 2012 thinking deeply about what processes might best serve what has become the rather interesting complexity that is the publishing of humanities/contemporary media/transdisciplinary research right now. There has been such a rich proliferation of developments in publishing since the Fibreculture Journal began in 2002 (some of the most exciting now emerging from our publishers, Open Humanities Press). The entire Open Access movement seems delightfully to gone mainstream and there are a series of alternative movements already pushing things along even further.
Again, we are very open to suggestions from the Fibreculture community about where we might go next (although we have lots of ideas already!).
Incidentally, 2012 will be our 10th year in publishing! So I will indulge in a few short remarks about the past and future to finish.
As Editor, I think all those involved can be justifiably proud. I also remain deeply grateful to the many, many people who have been involved with the Fibreculture Journal over the last decade. By the end of 2012, we will have published 20 plus issues, with around 160 high quality articles. Given that we have a reasonably high rejection rate that’s something over 600 referees’ reports, along with 33 Guest Editors, and around 170 authors, all of these from all over the world. Our Board and Editorial Committee also have been incredibly supportive. We’ve become quite a crowd, and that’s before you get to our (we think tens of) thousands of readers. Of course, I must once again thanks our Journal Manager Mat Wall-Smith, and our previous Manager, Lisa Gye. Without them, none of this would have occurred, and none of the activity-to-come would even begin to be possible.
In short, because of all the work done by so many, everywhere I go now people seem to know the Fibreculture Journal. It’s been a wonderful and incredibly rewarding experience for me personally I must say.
Yet all has not been perfect. Let me try and turn my only real gripe, and it is big one, into something positive.
The gripe? It has to be said that many of the major research organizations/institutions around the world increasingly seem determined to treat those who actually produce journals with a kind of contempt (of course, they’re not all that fantastic in their treatment of authors/researchers either). Worse, they do this at the very same time they rely heavily on the work people do to produce journals. For example, they rely on journals to provide the central plank of research evaluation schemes and the like. It’s as if journals just appear out of the air, asking to be subject to some ridiculous form of bureaucratic subservience (yes, I’m angry about this, having been through multiple versions of it over nearly five years now). More generally, it’s as if what I and many others think is the quite wonderful flourishing of publishing is something deeply suspicious, always to be reduced to one or two major journals in pre-defined (and therefore often outmoded) “fields” (FCJ has even been one of the one or two journals on occasion, even if on another we have been classified as a “textiles” journal).
How to turn this into something positive? To put it simply, while of course we will retain our high academic standards, and will continue to double blind peer referee, etc, in other respects it is time to leave much of this institutional backwardness behind. If we’re thinking hard about this in 2012, it’s about how to do so. We’re thinking about how to embrace the energy, enthusiasm, deep social commitment and often cutting edge expertise of our communities in order to publish research that engages with key contemporary issues. We’re thinking about how to publish in a manner that gives that research the best chance it can have to engage with these issues. We’re thinking about how to further collaborate and cooperate with the flourishing of open access, online publishing. We’re thinking very deeply about how to avoid getting involved in fake competitions and false “excellence”. In short, where the institutional relation between research and the world falls short, or is counter-productive, we’re very happy to walk the other way with all our many friends (increasingly, we think, the majority).