The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online

For students of the weird, the wacky and the annoying.

Information from the publisher

This book explores the weird and mean and in-between that characterize everyday expression online, from absurdist photoshops to antagonistic Twitter hashtags to deceptive identity play.

Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner focus especially on the ambivalence of this expression: the fact that it is too unwieldy, too variable across cases, to be essentialized as old or new, vernacular or institutional, generative or destructive. Online expression is, instead, all of the above. This ambivalence, the authors argue, hinges on available digital tools. That said, there is nothing unexpected or surprising about even the strangest online behavior. Ours is a brave new world, and there is nothing new under the sun – a point necessary to understanding not just that online spaces are rife with oddity, mischief, and antagonism, but why these behaviors matter.

The Ambivalent Internet is essential reading for students and scholars of digital media and related fields across the humanities, as well as anyone interested in mediated culture and expression.


"Memes, trolling and weird internet jokes are becoming part of the everyday language of contemporary societies, whether occupying centre stage in mainstream politics or scuttling around in the darkest corners of the web. In this book, two leading scholars of digital communication have joined forces, in turn bringing folklore together with rigorously forensic studies of internet culture to create a new theoretical vocabulary for understanding, researching and teaching the Internet’s multiple vernaculars." - Jean Burgess, Queensland University of Technology

"From pranks and tasteless jokes to political propaganda, it's never been more important to face how online media give rise to and amplify the longstanding communal practices that lie between play and hate, fun and cruelty. Like its subject, this book is both entertaining and disturbing. It's an honest, uneasy, and essential reckoning. You'll laugh, feel bad you did, and understand." - Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research

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