War of the Words: The Rise of the Keyboard Warrior

The emergence of internet forums has coincided with the rise of the keyboard warrior. Issues with anonymous digital misogyny, cyber-bullying, racism and homophobia constantly arise in the public forum. This is largely due to the dark side of online participatory culture.

Vanessa Thorpe raises a number of these issues, with reference to the ‘unstinting ridicule’ that women face in the world of website news commentary. She states that ‘trolling’ has led to some female columnists to hesitate before publishing their opinions. This is a serious issue as it has a direct affect on female writers’ confidence, security and credibility.

Lanre Bakare, who monitors the Guardians ‘Comment is Free’ website, stated that an article on European Finance attracts snide anti-woman remarks, but subjects like abortion or domestic violence brings out most of the ‘trolling’.

As a sports enthusiast, I constantly witness the abuse that female columnists such as Mel McLaughlin and Erin Andrews receive on
sites like Fox Sports. Even as I type ‘female sports journalists’ into Google, the first result that I receive is the ‘40 Hottest Sports Reporters’. There are currently 17 female leaders around the world,
yet some men still see women as inferior and as sexual objects. I agree with British columnist Laurie Penny in that ‘this new epidemic of misogynist abuse is tapping an old vein in British public life.’ This is quite ironic as the emergence of the internet has seen society revert back to prejudice which has been present in the past.

I find that there are two main issues with internet forums and online participatory culture as a whole – the issue of anonymity and the absence of gatekeepers. The fact that users are can remain anonymous allows them to voice their opinion without an entry barrier. Jill Filipovic supports this, with an additional reference to tactics such as; manufactured First Amendment outrage, the argument that people who take threats seriously are over-reacting and the assertion that women want and like sexualized insults. I find it quite unnerving that I am of the same gender as the people that are making these ridiculous claims. I am aware that the First Amendment allows free speech in any and all circumstances, but I am sure that it does not encourage threats of sexual violence and sexism.

Issues of participatory culture and the openness of the internet will always polarise opinion. The presence of misogyny in today’s society needs to be addressed, but how? Campaigns such as #mencallmethings, The Anti-Bogan and Destroy the Joint are working towards the abolition of online misogyny, but I feel as though we need some sort of government regulation. But beyond regulation, we can back a difference as individuals by choosing not to participate in a culture of sexism and online abuse. We have a choice, we can either scroll past the offensive posts, or we can remove the cloak of indifference and ensure that sexism is a thing of the past.


1 Like = 1 Prayer

There is a common belief that the youths of today are disengaged from traditional politics. Is this true, or are we perhaps engaging with politics in un-conventional ways that reflect the changes in society? Being known as the ‘internet generation’, social media is becoming more and more influential in the lives of young people. But is this detrimental to activism or does it help provide more awareness of societal issues?

As technology evolves, we are able to connect and unite through a broader range of mediums. As one of the many people drawn into the now infamous internet campaign Kony 2012, I have experienced first hand the ability of todays youth to engage in current affairs. Kony 2012 is an example of the ways in which groups and organisations “use social media to coordinate action across a more dispersed network” (Jenkins, 2012, p.11). The methods that social media employ in order to gain increased circulation and audience engagement could not be done through any other medium.

On the other hand, there is the argument that social media, or more specifically ‘clicktivism’ is detrimental to ‘real’ activism. The term ‘clicktivism’ refers to the people who participate in online campaigns without actually supporting an issue. In recent years, it appears that young people think that 1 like = 1 prayer and that liking a photo can cure cancer or save a third world country from poverty. Jenkins states that, “the online community needs to be fully aware of the critical thinking and media skills needed to defend their causes” (Jenkins, 2012, p.10). In order to gain respect in the activist community, online organisations need to ensure that their followers are aware of the cause that they supporting and also to go further than just signing an online petition or changing their profile picture.

Being an ‘internet slacktivist‘, I often find myself sharing videos in support of gay marriage, liking photos against bullying or retweeting messages about social justice campaigns. This leads me to the question of whether clicktivism helps or hurts ‘real’ activism. Henrik Christensen argues that “it is not possible to determine a consistent impact of internet campaigns on real-life decisions, there is no evidence of the substitution thesis. If anything, the internet has a positive impact on offline mobilisation”. The internet holds a great deal of power in order to mobilise and spread information. Organisations such as Get Up and MoveOn.org, that are primarily coordinated through the internet, educate people about issues such as social justice, economic fairness and environmental sustainability. These organisations, although they do encourage clicktivism, are extremely influential in the activist community. I believe that clicktivism helps ‘real’ activism as it provides key information about current affairs at the click of a mouse.

Clicktivism is a consumerist concept as it has diluted activism to appeal to mass audiences. The concept resulting is that social change is marketed like a brand name, attempting to appeal to the widest possible audience rather than those few individuals who attempt to stand behind a cause. In this sense, while it has watered down serious activism, clicktivism has allowed societal issues to become more embedded in the fabric of our everyday lives, raising awareness and pushing for social change – which can never be a bad thing.

Originality: Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!

In today’s technologically convergent society, we have entered into a remix culture that has coincided with the demise of originality and creativity.

Remixing is the notion of taking another’s idea and modifying it in order to create a new meaning. As stated by Andrew Whelan, the word détournement’ can be useful in a study of remix culture. Détournement is the derailment of something, which is used in discussions of media and cultural interaction where meanings are subverted or undermined. This can be seen in remix as it has the ability to change the cultural, social and even political meaning of a text. This is shown through ‘parody’ videos, such as the Hitler Rants Parodies.

The emergence of remix culture has seen a shift in participation in society, from read only to a read and write culture. This has resulted in the audience moving from passive consumers to active ‘prosumers’. Lawrence Lessig states that remix “can’t help but make its argument, at least in our culture, far more effectively than could words” (Lessig, 2008, p74). In an era where everybody is in a rush, remixing holds a significant amount of power in that it conveys its intended meaning to a wide range of viewers in a concise form.

I agree with Kirby Ferguson in saying that everything is a remix and that all original material builds from previously existing material. Take Four Chords – Axis of Awesome for example. This video reveals that a significant amount of modern day pop songs are fundamentally based around four chords, much like the amen break in today’s remix culture.

In his collection of videos, Whelan refers to artists that produce music for net labels and give it away for nothing. He says, “You can’t buy anything, you can’t give these people money. They wont even sell you a t-shirt. It’s a weird model of cultural production where money is completely evacuated out of it.” I find this statement quite controversial in that a lot of music that is made from stolen samples may not provide initial financial gain, but it provides the artist with other benefits, such as increased circulation. Take Aussie Hip-Hop artist, 360 for example. In between his little known debut album ‘What You See Is What You Get’ and his multi award-winning album ‘Falling & Flying‘, he released three (one, two and three) mix tapes featuring remixes from the likes of Kanye West, Kings of Leon and even Lisa Mitchell. Although he did not receive a profit from these mix tapes, they provided the foundations for his successful follow up album.

Although the remix culture has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of new music being produced, I believe that it has been beneficial to the industry as it allows artists such as 360 to gain greater recognition and audience engagement.

The derivative act of remixing encourages progress and wealth creation of culture as it allows mixing of copyright holders content. It is often a remix work of genius that defines and shapes generations, as they are a collaboration of ideas from cultures and pieces of creative works. In this sense, the remix culture has seen the death of creativity, however, it has allowed a new form of creativity to emerge and develop.