Academics on Why Trolls Troll

Illustration for article titled Academics on Why Trolls Troll

We're at a stage in the internet where trolling is ubiquitous and expected. So, naturally, the Academy has decided to weigh in. Probably in the most troll-able way possible.


Claire Hardaker, a lecturer at Lancaster University in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, presented her paper, Trolling in Asynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication, at the Linguistic Impoliteness and Rudeness Conference (LIAR) back in 2009. Strike one. Her data was derived from digging through nine years of comments in a forum about horseback riding. What? Strike two! And, finally, her work was published in the Journal of Politeness Research.

That there is dedicated scholarship in this field is most probably a strike three. Well, her working definition for a troll is as follows:

"[Someone] who constructs the identity of sincerely wishing to be part of the group in question, including professing or conveying pseudo-sincere intentions, but whose real intention(s) is/are to cause disruption and/or to trigger or exacerbate conflict for the purposes of their own amusement"

Sound about right? Her study resulted in pretty sound advice for trollees, too:

Trolling can (1) be frustrated if users correctly interpret an intent to troll, but are not provoked into responding, (2) be thwarted if users correctly interpret an intent to troll, but counter in such a way as to curtail or neutralise the success of the troller, (3) fail if users do not correctly interpret an intent to troll and are not provoked by the troller, or, (4) succeed if users are deceived into believing the troller's pseudo-intention(s), and are provoked into responding sincerely. Finally, users can mock troll. That is, they may undertake what appears to be trolling with the aim of enhancing or increasing effect, or group cohesion.

In other words, trolls trolling trolls. So be forewarned. Even though you might feel tempted to troll this research, be prepared to be trolled right back. [Guardian, Image via Shutterstock]



Achievement Unlocked: Time squandered. Trolls troll because anonymity permits greater levels of mischief without consequence. Take that, study.