Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Trolling in Russian Media

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Trolling in Russian Media

Article excerpt


As computer-mediated communication has been spreading, from the very beginning its researchers noticed a specific type of verbal behavior on the internet on different interactive platforms - chat rooms, forums, comments on news portals etc., and that is trolling. The aggressive character of trolling was highlighted already in the first references to it, displayed in eagerness to assert oneself by means of rudeness and often by mocking derision towards other people. The vast majority of researchers found that trolling causes breach of network etiquette, aggressive intrusion into internet communication, violation of ethical standards [Baker 2001; Donath 1999; Shin 2008]. The aggressive tendency of this type of communication was emphasized by Whitney Phillips, who described the phenomenon of network trolling: "For trolls strong negative emotions such as sadness, despair or pain (collectively referred to as "butthurt") are burning in the bright neon lights targets. Trolls torment and bite their victims, until the metaphorical blood goes and then represent this blood as the evidence of their superiority and the weakness of victims" [Phillips 2015: 195].

However, other researchers do not constrain trolling only by destructive outpourings and speak about a playful character of trolling that lures interlocutors into a prolonged discussion of some topic [Herring, Job-Sluder, Scheckler and Barab 2010], or involves them into fun and exhilaration [Buckels, Trapnell & Paulhus 2014]. In this regard, researchers find some positive effect in 'trolling' interference in communication if it helps with truth seeking or if it is aimed at revitalization of network communication, entertainment of communication and if it is not offensive to participants of communication [Semenov, Shusharina 2011]. Therefore, two intentions of trolling are considered to be main: rude self-actualization that leads to destruction of communication, or mischief, verbal fun, invitation to have fun.

The authors identify psychological conditions of trolling emergence among which the most important is a network environment, where such features rule as anonymity of communication, instantaneousness of information distribution and audience diffuseness [these features are mentioned, for example, in works by Van Dijk 1999; Castells 2006]. Psychologists note that a troll in the network is a troublemaker, an instigator [Binns 2012], an aggressor, an inciter, a stirrer that is created 'to be an evil-doer and do harm' [Ksenofontova 2009: 290].

Because of trolling, researchers often speak about one more negative outpouring of the network communication - flaming: trolling is a separate utterance, a speech act, flaming is polylogical interaction [Vorontsova 2016; Spiridonova, Tretyakova 2012]. There are works in which trolling and flaming are identical [Semenov, Shusharina 2011; Lutovinova 2013]. We consider the following approach to the differentiation of these concepts more productive: "In online discourse, these communicative phenomena correlate to each other as a cause and result: trolling is a reason, flaming is a result. <...> flaming is the effective result of trolling, the achievement of the addresser's communicative goal" [Vorontsova 2016: 111]. Indeed, flaming will appear in case if a provocation of the troll targets has desired result, other participants are being involved in the communication, and the scandal is being flamed within the discussion ('flame' means "a hot glowing body of ignited gas that is generated by something on fire"), with no place any longer for the interaction of semantic positions.

Summarizing the existing experience of studying trolling, it is stated that in most cases researchers agree that trolling is an anonymous speech strategy inherent in network, which purpose is the destruction of communication through provocative actions [Akulich 2012; Vnebrachnykh 2012; Vorontsova 2016; Ksenofontova 2009; Semenov, Shusharina 2011 etc. …

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