Blog Post #2: Delving Deeper into the Underbelly of Online Communications

Despite the fact that this looks like she’s written this in word to herself – does anyone actually talk like this online? Let’s find out.

Warning: This blog post contains some very harsh language.

There are two things I’d like to cover in this blog post: firstly, gathering responses from other people’s experiences online, and secondly, to streamline the points to cover in my digital artefact and seminar to be presented in week 9.

Over the past week I have engaged with some auto-ethnographical research methods to gather some answers to two questions, on either side of the negative communications spectrum – those that have ‘dished it’ and those that have ‘taken it’. As a disclaimer, I’d like to stress that these are just samples of responses that I have received – they do not reflect the entire situation. Some responses have been edited for continuity, grammar and spelling; all participants will remain unnamed on this blog.

The first question (as posted on Reddit):
What’s your favourite ‘abusive’ message you’ve received online (gaming, youtube, etc)?
I seem to have issues cracking the secret to a succesful Reddit thread; I only got a few responses to this, but what I did receive was useful. The question is ambiguously worded, and deliberately so; I chose the word “favourite” so as not to antagonise anyone into remembering any triggering memories, and to prompt some more of the entertaining responses that may not have been to harmful.

“”Come fight me, bro!” as he proceeded to give me his number and address …”

“I got told to hang myself with my mouse because some salty kid had the urge to PM me after a match cause i kicked his ass. Jokes on him its wireless!”

“Not exactly an “abusive” message, but a guy kept harassing me to do something that I kept telling him I wasn’t going to do, and in the end he just told me “Now the dream is dead.” … I used to make and sell fantasy attire for Second Life and I had made a set of pauldrons / bracers, and about a year later, he was asking me why there wasn’t leg armor and demanding I make it and give it to him. (so nothing exciting)”

“”Everything was great until OP started begging for money. Dont ask people to support your hobby. Go find a job and support yourself.” … “Just because you know how to make some doodles doesn’t mean you can earn a living with it.” … “he’s not even that good”
Response from one person on imgur to me putting a link to my patreon at the bottom of a series of Dark Souls boss monster drawings that I did.”

“Not very abusive towards me but I was playing CS:GO and someone got a triple kill with the pp-bizon and decided he would write in chat: “Get raped” … “By my pp””

“Had this friend who was a mute chick on League of legends. Back then, my username was KuroTheCat and I would sometimes just pretend to be a cat to annoy people.
Since she was mute, she would only type when we skyped but she always used your instead of you’re. After a while, I told her she should really correct it. She flipped out and went into a long rant about how it was who she was and she would change whenever she wanted.
So I deleted her. The next morning she sent me an essay of how I was a horrible human being but she topped it off with “And BTW you’re not a fucking cat””

While there were not a lot of responses, I was pleased with the variety of responses I received. I am concerned that the notion of rape was brought up in such a small sample pool – I wonder if the ratio of comments of sexual nature would change should I have had a greater response. I was previously under the impression that these kind of comments were not all that common – I personally haven’t received any notable responses of a sexually charged nature. I will elaborate on my own experiences in my seminar.

The second question (asked in numerous Discord channels):
Have you ever been combanned/banhammered from online communications? If so what was it you said that got you banned? Did you feel any remorse for your actions and did you think there would be consequences?
This question was a little more loaded than the last one – only a few managed to answer the third part of the question, however. I believe I will have to dig a little more deeply in order to find the psychology behind these behaviours – perhaps by finding some more scholarly sources.

“I was only banned once, but I dont remember what it was for, so :/”

“Been banned in a twitch chat for using 3 emotes to type out kek”

“I’ve never been banned from anywhere, as far as I remember. My brother, however, was banned in Maplestory due to drama spread by his then-girlfriend. Ended up getting kicked from a guild, and I guess the drama was enough to ban him from the game.”

“I got banned from league of legends for being salty in one game. I called someone a dick waffle twat. … [then] I got banned from minecraft for… You gotta wait for this… Having my brightness on full. So I don’t need torches in the dark. It was either that or the fact that I was a bit rude to the mod that pointed it out. I think I said something along the lines of. “Because your blind ass can’t see in the dark doesn’t mean I can’t” Which wasn’t even that bad. I got banned on a different server for saying “Where do I buy some fine booty” … and I’m not even joking”

“Been banned on some unturned server for telling an admin to “chill the fuck out you autistic spastic” … the admin was being an autistic lil spas so … oh better one … another one in unturned banned from another server for walking up to an admin and saying “hello” that got me a perma ban cracked me up XD”

“I got banned many times as a kid, it was because I was an asshole. I used to be a lot more abrasive … I remember one time I got banned for racism because I was trying to explain to some guy that banning jokes is fucking retarded. That was a fun day – he got so mad … Sometimes its how I’d acted for years on that forum and sone [sic] guy just got pissy about it. Sometimes I didn’t care or I felt I was making a moral stand.”

“[The second time] I got combanned for calling the kid a scrub … [the first time for] saying either fucker bitch or cunt.”

There are some great and varied responses here – examples of minor rules being broken and some examples of outright abusive communications behaviour. I feel that those that answered the question and showed no remorse did so because they believed the receiving party deserved the harsh words, or that they were made in good faith that the other party would not find it offensive. Which brings me to another point of investigation that I’d like to look at – the difference between banter and abuse.

Unlike the last image, this actually happened. Someone seemed to be confused as to whether this was banter, or real bullying. The two have since reconciled over the misunderstanding.

Coming to this point of the study,  I may have been too ambitious and I feel I need to dial back on the mass of topics lest I become overwhelmed. Refining this study into a series of dot points to use as headers looks like the way to proceed.

So, what are we really looking at here?

  • The difference between banter and bullying
  • When trolling becomes harassment – what’s the difference?
  • Real life consequences: doxxing and swatting
  • Is this an indication on how we’ll treat our AI citizens in the future?

Given the seminar is 20 minutes long, it seems to make sense that I will spend 4 minutes on each point, and use the remaining 4 minutes to introduce the topic, conclude my hypotheses, and explain my approach to the digital artefact – how I will present this information. I am leaning towards a series of 4 youtube videos or blog posts at this point.

Blog #1: A Brief Look at Malicious Online Communications

My personal favourite example of a malicious comment.

Have you ever received a negative message online?

I feel like in this day and age, it’s almost impossible to find someone who would say no. Negative messages can come in many different forms and differ in severity; anything from a minor insult during a Facebook tiff with someone on a local buy-sell group, to rape and death threats – all from complete strangers. Why does this behaviour seem to be largely ignored, and in some cases, even glorified?

This was a question that came to me after reading Julian Dibbell’s article, A Rape in CyberspaceThe further I delved into it, the more parallels I began to draw to another real life incident that I’d read about a few years ago. Dibbell writes about a harrowing experience shared by a friend from an online community; acting as a second hand source. In the second article that I have linked, written by Kim Correa, Correa writes about her own experiences first hand.

“Months later, the woman in Seattle would confide to me that as she wrote those words posttraumatic tears were streaming down her face — a real-life fact that should suffice to prove that the words’ emotional content was no mere fiction. The precise tenor of that content, however, its mingling of murderous rage and eyeball-rolling annoyance, was a curious amalgam that neither the RL nor the VR facts alone can quite account for. Where virtual reality and its conventions would have us believe that exu and Moondreamer were brutally raped in their own living room, here was the victim exu scolding Mr. Bungle for a breach of “civility.” Where real life, on the other hand, insists the incident was only an episode in a free-form version of Dungeons and Dragons, confined to the realm of the symbolic and at no point threatening any player’s life, limb, or material well-being, here now was the player exu issuing aggrieved and heartfelt calls for Mr. Bungle’s dismemberment.”

– Excerpt from Dibbell’s “A Rape In CyberSpace” (1998)

The similarities are undeniable between the two stories – and these are only two examples of the seemingly seedy underbelly of peer to peer online communications. When we access these digital worlds, we do so to relax, and not to be harassed – certainly not to feel personally violated in any way.

“The guys who shot me made moaning and groaning noises. You can still talk in chat, so I tried to yell at them, but they were louder. I gave up and was too rattled to respawn, so I just logged off and left my desk. I didn’t play again that night.”

Excerpt from Correa’s “Being a Lady and Playing DayZ” (2014)

Knowing this, I would like to investigate the attitudes and even cultures behind these kind of comments or actions – not just in videogames (where I have personally experienced harassment), but also in other forms of online communications; on platforms such as Twitch, Youtube, Tumblr, AskFM, and even reddit or imgur. In addition to this, I would also like to look at cases where such comments evolve beyond simple trolling into incidents with real world consequences or harassment – such as “doxxing” or “swatting”.

Why do people celebrate malicious behaviours with real life consequences?

As a minor point – I’d like to have a look at treatment of the cybernetic, robotic and artificial intelligence bots (such as the infamous Tay incident) and see if there are any similarities to be drawn between the treatment of artificially intelligent beings and the way people are treated online.

By the conclusion of the project I’d like to be able to conclude if there is a true psychological explanation of such behaviour, and what there is to be done to combat malicious incidences of such behaviour.

Reference list:

Week 2 pt. 2: Let’s Talk Artefacts, Baby.

Okay, well yesterday’s post was a bit of a cluster…mess. I talked about so much yet never even thought about my digital artefact – that terrible meme just put me in such a bad place.

I still get nightmares thinking about it.

I have done a digital artefact before for DIGC330 (Digital Asia), however that subject focussed on the auto-ethnographical approach to study, whereas this subject requires a little bit more academic research… Which I’ll admit, is not my strongest suit. However for the purposes of this blog post, I’m just going to throw some ideas at the wall and see what sticks. It’s time for…. a mind-map.

This pretty much mimics the state of my room right now – it’s a total mess.

Okay, let’s make sense of this thing. My mind maps have a tendency to never be understood by anyone but me. I’m going to give that a positive spin and just say that it’s because my beautiful mind is somewhat unique.

In the centre, we have “BCM112 D.A.: “The Medium is the Message” – basically what the entire artefact needs to revolve around.

I have split this up into the two categories, Medium and Message. Underneath medium I have thrown out ideas and concepts relating to medium, and on top of message I have done the same. The lines obviously connect similar concepts or create pathways that form ideas.

In the Medium corner:

  • Medium: What can I use to convey my message?
    • Cross medium – OR just one medium?
    • Video: Youtube, Vimeo OR Twitch/Streaming
    • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
    • Combination: Videos on social media – optimised for the platform
      • Quality: to make it appropriate for all platforms… OR to make the content for ONE platform and then manipulate it to work for other platforms?

In the Message corner:

  • Message: What am I trying to say?
    • News, reviews, or instructions/learning?
      • Why not all 3? Create a channel and focus on ONE subject (ie. Photography?) and share related content for all 3
    • To create something useful for others… Should I focus on the medium OR the message?
      • Why not both? Focus on the core concept, and make the medium being the message literal!

I now have a decision to consider by the end of the week so that I can begin working on my pitch… What should my message be – and what would be the appropriate medium to convey said message?

Perhaps I could make the medium the message, and the message the medium…

Week 2, pt. 1: Guten Morgen, meine Freunde!

I made my calendar for this semester. This about sums it up:

Actual picture of me in week 2.

I am going to have NO FREE TIME. By free time, I mean honest, scheduled time where I do nothing at all. This doesn’t count procrastination time, which is unscheduled and will happen a lot as I am a mess and I can’t stick to a schedule when I am tired (spoilers: this is all the time). Dear future employers: please don’t read this and think I won’t get your work done! It’s a very different story when money is involved (the temptation to wink here is high – but also rather inappropriate). 

So why do I have no free time? One word: assessments.

Included in said assessments are two digital artefacts – one for DIGC330 and one for this subject! So this blog post will be looking at ideas for that, as well as the class mantras (philosophies): FEFO and and #FIST.

What is FEFO?

FEFO, and not FIFO as I keep mis-identifying it (thanks to my former TelCo work experience) is Fail Early, Fail Often (not first-in, first-out!).

Fail Early, Fail Often: The process is iterative and nonlinear; prioritizes experimentation and rapid prototyping; all mistakes are non-critical as long as you iterate #FIST.

(From the Prezi…)

What do I make of this? Well I can be quite literal at times. I can also be quite linear, however. Although my studies in MEDA301 would absolutely love this methodology (I will hold off on introducing it to my lecturer, however) – this was something I have always struggled with. I love my lines. I love my structure. Yet I lack the logic to do something constructive with that.

Unlike of course “Bomie”, the moniker of a software-engineer-online-contact of mine. He offers the following sage advice:

Public void doWork(){
 Throw new unsupportedexception();

(It essentially means do your work. Thank you, Bomie.)

I generally like to have an idea of what I’m working towards, and I tend to plan scrupulously to pull that off. Sometimes this can bite me in the arse and progress is killed off by my previously mentioned procrastination problem. This generally means I don’t leave a lot of room for experimentation or failure. When said failure occurs, to me it is huge and totallygetsinthewayofeverything!

So I am to get used to this not-as-uncommon-as-I’d-like-it-to-be concept of failing early and failing often – for through each failure, we learn a lesson, and through each lesson, we come closer to success. Cue Coldplay’s Fix You playing in the background.

You are quite welcome to listen to this while reading the rest of the blog post.

So we’re prototyping now. We’re making progress, experimenting, finding what works and what doesn’t. We find that listening to Coldplay is actually soul-draining so we turn that racket off. These failures don’t matter because they become lessons – or do they? Cue #FIST – an acronym which most of my friends will snicker childishly at. However, context is key, so with that in mind…

What is #FIST?

A methodology that is unfortunately, widely adopted by US Military weapons developers (of course, right?) – FIST stands for Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny. It is a great methodology to follow when prototyping, and may even lead to bigger and better ideas. Once again, though, I have a tendency to over-complicate things in this context. My biggest downfall when making a project is dreaming big, then having to scale back when I realise my limitations.

Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny: A methodology used for making digital media artefacts; to move fast and be biased towards rapid prototyping; to use inexpensive components whenever possible; to simplify as much as possible, optimize for memes rather than films; to build in small components – optimize for the bazaar rather than the cathedral.

(From the Prezi…)

Well, might as well jump right in then, shall I? I present to you, this absolutely awful, please don’t judge me, Sanic meme that I have created. I’m ashamed to say that this is 100% my own work and any other student that has had something similar… well let’s just say, great minds?

Update: You can find this under my Imgur account here but I am not submitting this to the public and compromising my “liked” notoriety status.

I… Think I need to lie down. I will have to leave artefact prototyping for another day. This needs no explanation if you are at all familiar with the sanic meme. (If not, please google it – I need not soil my eyes further).


I’m done.