The Troll Continuum

Follow-up post to The Decline of Trolling.

Social media has broken down so many traditional categories (artist, critic, performer, "hacker," dickhead) that we obviously need a new set of definitions for online actors. I propose degrees of trolling, or fixing the place of the actor within a 4 dimensional troll continuum.

The following are markers to assist in this placement process:

-- "Who is the troll in this situation?" is a frequently asked question.

-- Is the troll the critic, or the person who gets 25 "likes" for flaming the critic?

-- A recent Q&A considers trolling in the narrow context of people who self-identify as net artists.

-- People who would now be called trolls if their activities were restricted to online interactions: Kathy Acker (copying), Elaine Sturtevant (copying), Andy Kaufman (stunts), Frank Zappa (stunts), Malcolm X (political theatre). This is retcon (retroactive continuity) working backwards from (i) being a jerk on Facebook to (ii) the Weev-like hacker-troll to (iii) the aforementioned troublemakers.

-- Ben Vickers suggests a spectral continuum on his twitter account: criticism, constructive trolling, mere trolling, straight up hurtful commentary, and abuse. Vickers distinguishes a troll from a critic as follows: the critic has an affirmative duty to host retaliatory comments on his own site. (Kind of like mandatory health care payments as a requirement of citizenship.)

-- The Vickers spectrum doesn't take into account trolling-as-art or trolling-as-social-media-strategy, however. Can these types of trolling be spoken of, not in moral terms such as constructive or hurtful, but rather critiqued for their effectiveness as theatre? If all art is performance, rewarded by coins in a tip jar, then the troll always makes the most money by "stirring things up." All art aspires to the condition of trolling.

More markers will be added as they occur to me.

Update: Jeffrey Deitch, now in a position of adult responsibility as head of LA MOCA, once gave a Flash Art interview where he described his early work as a '70s conceptual artist. He would start arguments out on the street, then duck into a building as they escalated, get his camera, and come back outside to take documentary photos of angry people shouting at each other (or fighting). This is the essence of trolling, and you can see it has a real pedigree in the art world.

Reap what you sow, boomers

Yves Smith links student debt and Social Security in an interesting way:

I’ve never understood when (once in a while) someone (clearly young) shows up in comments and rails against Social Security and Medicare because of the burden it imposes on him. Now I get it. The student debt issue is deepening social fractures. If young people are asked to stand on their own, and given only unpalatable choices (forego a college degree, the entrance ticket to middle class life, or accept debt slavery at a tender age), no wonder they adopt a “devil take the hindmost” attitude. I hope some of these people who so cavalierly argue for loading up the next generation with debt realize that the young may not want to take care of them either, and they are far more at risk. The outcome of cutting social safety nets to the elderly ultimately means that old people will die faster.

Student loans should never have been cut loose from bankruptcy protection, usury limits, and other forms of common decency. Belt-tightening doesn't mean being garroted by criminals in business suits.

paintFX dot ad plus relational morality


This was from the website of a well-known paint store chain. Cropped, rotated, with some other tweaks to isolate the image.
Was reading some tweets recently where the stance of "blending art, life and politics" was used as a politically correct cudgel. X presumed to make a distinction between attacking art and attacking a person, so Y adopts the zen master stance and says: "Grasshopper, you think these are not one and the same? I no longer make 'art' but have recognized that all our actions are relational. Everything is a moral act." So then X says, yeah, but the attack was a mere bee-sting. So the zen master then switches to the aesthetic mode, arguing that the attack lacked balance and feng shui. And then I woke up.