The House that Fox Built – Phillips

This paper is an old favorite as it’s one of the few papers that I’ve found that looks at 4Chan and its interactions with the mainstream media. I’ve used it in the past for nice quotes but it’s relevant now because of how it meshes with what Ellis was saying in the last paper we read.

Phillips, W. (2013). The House That Fox Built Anonymous, Spectacle, and Cycles of Amplification. Television & New Media, 14(6), 494-509.

4anon-123614335764In this article, Philips is drawing parallels between the mainstream media’s rhetoric of spectacle and outrage and the practice of online trolling. Furthermore, he shows how Fox was instrumental in the molding of /b/’s ‘Anonymous’ culture into what it is today. Written well before the creation of the ‘Lulsec’ group, this paper shows the foundations that the group was based upon and how it became the influential body that it was for months in the media cycle.

The ‘cybernetic feedback loop’ that Phillips identifies is how trolling aimed to provoke reactions. When these reactions were reported upon, structuring elements were added by the reporting and these structuring elements were consequently used by the trolls to become more news-friendly and more effective at garnering reporting from the outlets that provided the structuring elements in the first place.

aaWhat is interesting to us, in relation to Ellis’ paper last week, is how Phillips describes the action of trolling and how he positions the dynamic of 4Chan. With 4Chan being the origin of bronies and also a dominant online content producer, the process of these dynamics has a wide reaching impact.

Where Ellis talks about the acts of rule bending, aggressive play and the extensive use of irony, Phillips talks about 4Chan’s motivation of being a counter-hegemonic space that is free from, and at the same time impacted by, racial and gendered issues. As a trend, it’s nice to see how the acceptance of irony online can be positioned as a positive development that is breaking the dichotomies of society.

Phillips takes paragraphs explaining the dynamic use of the word fag; “Depending on the context, “-fag” can function as a homophobic slur, term of endearment, or neutral mode of self-identification”. This useage that he describes is so perfectly descriptive of the queering of popular culture that Ellis describes.

I love this shit because it positions the weird and the stereotyped into a deeper position. In understanding the motivations of anons and bronies we might be able to discern broader patterns that are, and that will be, impacting popular culture.

If you want to pick up the paper, it’s available here for FREE!


Next up:

  • Niu, H. J., Chiang, Y. S., & Tsai, H. T. (2012). An exploratory study of the otaku adolescent consumer. Psychology & Marketing, 29(10), 712-725.
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