Trolling the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Roundtable
Thursday, 1 November 2018, 2pm-4pm
Room 2003, Building 19
Scholarship is not always warmly received. Where research is challenging to established arrangements (and sometimes, even when it is not), it can be misrepresented, treated as though it were offensive, and met with disdain and ridicule. This attitude can extend to students interested in such research and its social and political implications. Those conducting the research can find themselves subject to abuse and invective from both the mainstream press and vocal critics on social media – frequently in tandem. This is routinely referred to as trolling. Trolls and what they troll are indicative of how power works in public culture. This trolling directed to the humanities aligns with a number of political goals. These include normalising characterisations of academic culture as a kind of disconnected, ‘PC’ parallel universe, legitimising the defunding of public institutions, and ultimately, neutralising critique of the status quo. The costs of such trolling are commonly worn by individual academics. At this level trolling works as a strategy of silencing through shaming (particularly directed to women and visible minorities). Trolling thus involves an affective transfer, intensifying the emotional labour required of academics by channeling it in from the online domains where academics are expected to maintain profiles. This occurs in a professional context where impact and metrics are increasingly consequential, although the possibilities of entirely negative reactions to ‘knowledge transfer’ are seldom factored in to research evaluation.
This roundtable asks: What does all this mean for researchers and for research dissemination in the contemporary media landscape? How should universities support academics, and how can academics best support each other in engaging with this context?
Andrew Whelan is a sociologist who has conducted research on internet subcultures and on the organisation of academic work.
Kate Bowles is a Twitter user, who will talk about academic Twitter in a time of “strident criticism” (A Jones, 2018).
Sukhmani Khorana is Senior Lecturer in Media and Culture at the University of Wollongong. Sukhmani has published extensively on diasporic cultures, multi-platform refugee narratives, and the politics of empathy.
Jet Hunt is a graduate of Wollongong University and former co-convenor of the Wollongong Feminist Society. They are currently a youth worker, and have worked extensively with young people around ethics and safety in online spaces. Jet is a settler on the stolen lands of the Wadi Wadi people of the Dharrawal nation.
This event is co-sponsored by CERN and FRN.