Accepted paper:

Nationalism and the "deep vernacular web"

Author:

Alexander Harder (Leuphana University L√ľneburg)

Paper short abstract:

Anonymous and ephemeral imageboards like 4chan.org privilege shocking content and make it impossible to tell sincerity from jest. Based on participant observation, I want to show how their affordances participate in the construction of reactionary ideas of nationalism, race and gender.

Paper long abstract:

Anonymous imageboards like 4chan.org have long been hailed as utopian spaces for hackers: In opposition to the profiles, timelines and friendlists of Social Media, their completely anonymous and fleeting nature has given rise to a so-called "A-Culture" (Auerbach). Marked by an intentional disconnect between real life and online personae, it encourages transgressive content, constant suspicion and identity play. While 4chan.org was long associated with the collective "Anonymous" and the Occupy Wall Street protests, recent developments have revealed a "darker side" (boyd) to its pages. White supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, the misogynist violence perpetrated by "incels" in the United States and Canada, as well as conspiracy theories like "Pizzagate" or "Q-Anon" have all been linked to 4chan and the "deep vernacular web" (Tuters, Phillips). Left-wing and Right-wing observers alike consider 4chan.org to be the "skeleton key to the rise of Trump" (Beran), and a "hub of alt-right activity" (Bokhari and Yiannopoulos). While it is impossible to assess the imageboard wholesale, its anonymity and ephemerality do serve to privilege shocking and offensive comments and make it impossible to tell sincerity from jest. A fundamental "ambivalence" (Milner and Phillips) characterizes the interactions and the content shared on the website. Based on participant observation conducted on 4chan.org, I want to highlight how these affordances participate in the construction and circulation of reactionary ideas of nationalism, race and gender.

panel Digi01
New networked nationalisms: tracking the role of digital ethnology and folklore in a changing political landscape [SIEF Working Group on Digital Ethnology and Folklore (DEF)] [P+R]