Trolling: Other Voices on Whether It's Art or Not

Will Neibergall and Frederick Heydt weigh in on trolling.

Heydt approaches it from a gaming/heavy internet user perspective and from what I know, is dubious about claims being made for trolling (or other forms of net activity) as art. His video essay describes trolling as a type of prank or acting-out (giving vent to aggressive impulses) for the sheer hell of it, but then reflects on the good or bad of the use of these impulses for promotion or self-promotion.

Neibergall acknowledges that some people are claiming an "art" layer for Heydt-like trolling but asks:

what distinct factors separate art (namely performance art) on the internet from trolling, outside of sites like rhizome and occasionally where users are accustomed to looking at even the most normal social interactions as works of art?

We've been making sarcastic posts lately about trolling-as-art but there's actually not much valid theory on the subject. Academic-in-training Brad Troemel wrote an obnoxious essay about 4Chan activities as Relational Aesthetics in the wild, ascribing high purpose to bulletin boards that most of the board users would laugh at. Stefan Krappitz has written a book Troll Culture, and in a recent interview he refers to trolling as "an art" that "has potential" as opposed to capital-A art (with manifestos, theories, university departments, etc).

The performance and conceptual arts of the 1960s serve as a model for much so-called internet art. One announces a Situationist-style "action" on the web before or after the fact and provides documentation, which is collected or compiled by an "art and technology" website. Most of the trolling described by Heydt is done without that layer of self-conscious purpose and links to historical tradition. It's probably useful to compare these japes to art without actually making top-down, ex post facto claims for them. Useful in the sense of fun, interrogational, intellectually adventurous, and so on, not useful in adding more activities to the Canon that never asked to be there in the first place.