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„Post your Desktop!“ – Slides zum 4chan-Vortrag

24. April 2010

In aller Kürze – hier sind die Slides und weiter unten der Abstract zum Vortrag, den ich am Donnerstag bei der Tagung „Medialität der Nähe / Media and Proximity“ in Siegen gehalten habe. Eine sehr gelungene, sehr anregende Tagung, von dir ich sehr viel mitgenommen habe, einen Bericht möchte ich natürlich noch schreiben, die Zeit ist wie immer knapp. Vielen Dank an Gabriele Schabacher, Raphaela Knipp, Jens Schröter, Tobias Haupts, Pablo Abend, Rukiye Canli und die weiteren UnterstützerInnen der Tagung!

Update (16.12.2010): Lokalisierte, deutschsprachige Fassung inkl. Diskussion von Anonymous‘ Operation Paybacl & Leakspin: Siehe auch Blogpost vom 10.12.2010: Wer oder was ist Anonymous – was ist Anonymous nicht?

Ursprüngliche, englischsprachige Fassung

„Post your Desktop!“ – Negotiating proximity and distance in an anonymous environment on imageboard 4chan.org

4chan.org, the imageboard examined in this paper, has the reputation of a ‚meme factory’, an incubator for image innovations such as Lolcats and Rickrolling, which have already become a fixture of internet culture. It is also the origin of controversial interventions such as the Great Habbo Raids (2006-2008), when virtual hotel world Habbo.com became the target of an invasion of identical game characters with an afro hair-do, gathering in swastika formation and blocking access to Habbo’s pools and beaches. Anonymity and the fleetingness of generated meanings play an important role for the constitution of this platform: most users post as ‘Anonymous’, older pages are deleted automatically – within minutes if a board is very busy.

To begin with, the paper looks at 4chan as a liminal (or: liminoid) space as described by Victor Turner: a temporary, ritual space where social hierarchies give way to an egalitarian community spirit (communitas) that emerges not so much from actual commonalities between subjects, but from the communal submission to the rules of the ritual – the equivalent of which are identified in the rules of the interface and terms of the platform. The liminoid invites experiments with the material of culture that would normally be suppressed – on 4chan, the next transgression of socially accepted rules of signification is just around the corner.

Secondly, the paper examines emerging practices which seek to re-inscribe identity, or rather: measures for the comparison and calibration of subjects. The call to “Post your Desktop!” (i.e. screenshots of the PC desktop) is a recurring topic on 4chan discussions, allowing ephemeral constructions of socio-cultural distance or proximity based on operating systems, language settings, installed programs and wall paper choices. But with the majority of 4chan users appearing highly computer literate, one may never be sure whether one is dealing with an actual ‘document’ of aspects of a subject’s identity, or with a skilful manipulation instead.

(Contact: jana.herwig@univie.ac.at)

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