There's a wonderful special section in the New York Times on "Internet Culture" this week. The sociology of online life fascinates me, and I love digging into good, meaty reporting on who we are and why we do what we do online.
How do tools and apps shape our behavior? How do virtual bonds originate, grow, and sometimes degrade differently than they do with face-to-face communication? This is stuff I think about a lot.
There's a great feature in the section by Quentin Hardy about how "trolling" as we now know it sort of originated as "griefing," in games.
In the gaming community, griefing historically meant doing stuff like "repeatedly killing the same player so that the person can't move forward, reversing the play of newer gamers so they don't learn the rules, or messing with other people's play by blocking their shots or covering oneself with distressing images," Hardy writes:
"Griefing was a way to have power over other people without any repercussions, since you can create multiple characters in the same game," said Jack Emmert, former chief executive of Cryptic Studios, a maker of online games. "When there are no repercussions, some people will start to do crazy things."
That was basically acceptable when online communities and games were made up of small groups that understood one another's behavior, said Ian Bogost, a game designer and professor at Georgia Tech.
"Folks who are griefing or trolling feel like they are in a secondary universe that isn't the same as the real world," he said. "It was a 'safe space' for them, in which they did horrible things."
The problem is that the internet is part of the entire world, where those practices have a different force and meaning.
How Gaming Helped Launch the Attack of the Internet Trolls