Objective – Relationship Analysis

As requested all subjects who appeared on my original recording regarding this project were contacted for permission, those that requested I not feature them where completely removed from said program. The recording, quotes will not feature in this paper, I am not attempting to garner points through shock value or the appearance of vulgarity. In the interviews I conducted which have been transcribed in order to remove any trace of identity from my subjects, as intended. Also, the topic of the paper has shifted from specific justification for the toxicity of individuals to a less personal understanding of the effect of digital landscapes on the generation of toxicity.

I changed my initial idea from a voyeuristic style of secret recording to informing my subjects of my intention and attempting to engaging in a combination of the two styles presented in week 8’s lecture, Lurking which is observation of common traits, to active engagement through the interviews I conducted with my three key witnesses.

The format of this paper will be simple and leading. I will present an interview that had a particular theme and then breakdown that theme and analyze with sources the idea behind it. These themes will be, in order; Racism Online and Anonymity, Sexism and the Assumed Average Online Resident with a final idea of Personal Attacks and the De-Evolution of Debate into Emotional Responses. Instead of focusing on the reality of the subjects and attempting to understand their justification for the examples I used, this paper will attempt to understand how the destination of a Digital Landscape can amplify these concepts and whether or not it lends itself to this format of discussion. Many of my interviews went for long periods of time, one went for an hour, so these have clearly been shortened. The code names assigned to my three key Subjects (L, R, M) are all random and do not in any way reflect their names or occupations.

As part of my original project I generated charts of the so-called Toxic Make-Up of my recordings, these where broken into three categories, Racism, Sexism and Personal Attacks, and where scored against three criteria, Average Frequency per Hour, Highest Usage per Hour and Number of Times the instance was called to attention as inappropriate by either the group as a whole or a single other member or said, group.Day One Chart WK

My first chart gave me a bedrock to build on but it wasn’t until my seventh chart of data I noticed a genuinely troubling trend.

Day Seven Chart WK

As you can see the bars have an order to them, even six days later the data present in a similar pattern. This demonstrated the normalization of the use of these toxic topics in our group, which once presented within the interviews provoked several interesting responses, which led me to believe that they had almost not noticed, the vacuum of our group and its primary existence on a digital landscape had effected otherwise decent people. The purpose of the following interviews was to get the subject’s opinion on how this was possible or what they thought about a specific quote from the recordings. It is also key to know these were second-round interviews as I had to redo them due to a requested subject change/shift.

Interview Key:

I= Me (Interviewer)

L= Subject 1

R= Subject 2

M= Subject 3

(Please note the random selection of subject letter allocation)

All the interviews were conducted online themselves, over the Discord server speech application. Additionally as mentioned above the quotes used to provoke responses in the interviews will NOT feature. I feel no need to feature the toxicity this paper is attempting to academically understand the digital promotion of.

Interview 1: Racism Online

D: Thank you for allowing me the time to talk with you one on one today L.

L: All good, to be honest when you told me about the topic I was quite put out but it seems interesting.

D: Lets quickly start off with some standard field questions just to make sure the interview is about what we want it to be about. I now you not to be a racist, sexist or general bully, would you agree with this statement?

L: I mean yeah definitely, I realize we throw around these jokes and stuff, but I don’t hate anyone, that not, you know, my reason for it.

D: Alright with that settled let’s dive in, I’m going to present you a quote from the recordings, give it a read and then we will talk about it. Now before we do, this was randomly selected from a number of options, it is not guaranteed to be something you said or were even in the call for, but it is from our group’s conversations.

-After Reading-

L: Wow, reading it in such a formal setting really exposes how awful stuff can be. Who said this?

D: As part of my DA I will not be revealing any of the identities of the subjects or who said what. Just makes more sense, I am not trying to attack anyone, I want to understand the landscape not the persons within it.

L: Well, sure but to what extend to the people within a space impact its identity or affect? Either way, this comment has a clear racial lean, which I think I can speak to, I’ve made joke like this, probably incredibly similar, seeing it like this makes me feel bad, but it is the internet Drew, right, who really cares in the end what some random posts or says?

D: So you’re saying nothing on the internet matters, it doesn’t have a tangible effect on anything?

L: No, I mean, on the internet we are all just ones and zeroes right, if your famous you don’t read comments, the term troll exists for a reason, you get me?

Breakdown 1: Anonymity and the Power it Gives

The University of Melbourne’s Jennifer Beckett wrote that Anonymity free inhibition, allowing for trolls to go as far as threatening bodily harm, sexual assault and general violence against others in the comments section. Her article focuses on the importance of moderators in the social spaces of the internet, but I feel it has applications to all digital landscapes.

Clearly, shown through my data and others like Jennifer Beckett the often complete anonymous nature of the internet, has leaked into the conversation, even among people, you know IRL (In Real Life). Our Discord is the perfect example, the lack of accountability on the members of our groups who dabble in making memes or contribution to meme pages on Reddit has changed how they see generally acceptable conversation, allowing for racial comments to become something they see as regular, the norm, something everyone is doing.

Interview 2: Sexism and Masculine Stereotypes

R: Let get on with this Drew I want to get back to my game.

D: All good then, So for the frame of reference I’ve just sent you a quote from my selection of gathered examples of toxicity, it was randomly selected and may not be something you said but is something our group produced online.

-After Reading-

R: Okay so this quote is clearly meant to what, symbolize the sexism of gamers?

D: Well no again it is a randomly selected one, but let’s go back to that last thing you said, could you explain to me who a stereotypical ‘gamer’ might be?

R: I don’t know a guy, probably white, forum runners and Reddit users, like the typical user of the internet.

D: Does the fact they are perceived as the sort of majority demographic allow them any special rights online? Does it empower them in any way?

R: Not officially obviously, but the more I read this thing you have sent me, the more I think maybe it empowers us to cross a line like shock value has a higher base value when you’re around clones of yourself.

D: OK then that is really good, I think I can expand on this idea of the sort of typical masculine stereotypes being ‘enforced’ by the masses online.

R: Cool glad I could help.

Breakdown 2: Stereotypical Online Residents and its Relationship to Toxic Masculinity

Contrary to popular belief the typical ‘gamer’ is actually not a White Male on a global scale, it is actually an Asian Teenage Girl on her phone according to the Big Commerce Blog. However, it is important to note that this study was done in a more Western nation. As such the data collected in Nick Yee and Scott Caplan’s Article on the United State’s online community demographics. Overall Subject R was right non-religious White men were by far the largest group of individuals online.

This, of course, does not justify the sense of ‘ownership’ that Subject R communicated an understanding of, no one owns something simply because they are the majority. This is the tagline for Toxic behavior worldwide though, sexism and sexists rely on their general unity and common hatred to exist.

No one hates alone and the digital landscapes of the internet allow for connection across wide swathes of land. This inter connectivity is what fuels this widespread notion that sexist behavior is acceptable online and makes it hard for Females to have an extended existence within certain online communities, like our group which has a makeup of 95% male to 5% female.

This negatively mirrors the topic of week 8’s lecture, the focus of which was on Media Community Cults and Fans. The identity of an individual is informed by there surroundings, and unfortunately the white male so called ‘gamers’ have decided that their individuality hinges on a monopoly in digital landscapes, kept at the cot of being trolls and engaging in toxic behavior.

Interview 3: Personal Attacks

D: Again, M thanks for jumping in this call with me.

M: Not a problem I wasn’t doing anything.

D: So, to start like all the interviews I’m doing, I’m going to send you a quote from the recordings I did, now your one will be a bit different, I randomly selected it but it is based on my analysis of personal shots, so you will probably know both who said it and to who it was said. These interviews will be written out as to protect identities, so let’s try to avoid talking about the name or even the substance of the quote, we just need the theme.

M: Ok, I can do that, don’t mention names, don’t repeat it, got it.

-After Reading-

M: Okay yeah you where right I remember this, it dominated the memes of our chat for like a week.

D: That is actually a great point, based on some graphs and data I gathered, personal shots were by far the most ‘responded’ to a type of toxicity, which means someone called out the person doing it more than any other type.

M: Oh wow.

D: It is clearly the most personal, obviously. How in your opinion is this effected by the online and digital landscapes we use?

M: Like Discord and League?

D: Exactly.

M: Well it is just easier to respond like that isn’t it if you were arguing with someone it’s just easier to force them to leave then actually research your argument. It’s just normal to respond emotionally rather than with evidence, or even to respond with emotion while you research, it’s a great time filler especially online because everyone wants to be the last voice heard.

D: So if I took a segment of argument from my recording and removed all the personal insults I could just have a well put together argument for each side?

M: You could try, might not work for our group though.

Breakdown 3: The De-Evolution of Debate into Emotional Responses

I did actually go through one of our group’s more extended debates, one that focused on Greta Thunberg, and the climate strike in Sydney. This, unfortunately, meant I had to shift through an instance where the most person insults took place and as such, I consumed maybe four hours of time cutting, jabs and shots out. The result was less a formal debate and more of a one-sided one, most of the people taking shots had not as it had been proposed by Subject M used the insult back and forth to generate research and simply used what they saw as ‘career-ending’ insults to back their claims. We had the start of a debate, both sides clearly had a particular view on the matter, but the process quickly devolved into, who could force the other to leave the call first.

Now, personally, I believe that if I keep attempting this process Subject M would be right and there would be examples of using insult debate to simply run the clock allowing for research in a google tab while the other party responds. This is something that is specific to debate taken place within a Digital Landscape, as the ease of access to search engines and other research applications and the direct removal that comes with Speech apps like Discord allow for research to be done without revealing you were ever in the dark on a subject.

The Univesity of Oxford Offical Blog understands why this is often a negative thing through the analysis of “Selective Exposure”. Their article talks about social media and its relationship to selective exposure, but shift it ever so slightly to the broader online space. Here we engage in debate, activity, and community with others, and when we attempt to debate our opinion a supporting argument is only a click away, even if your view is factual ambiguous.

Conclusion/Discovery Analysis:

Three major factors in the Digital landscape’s relationship with Toxic Behavior have been revealed within this paper. These were:

  • The change Standard Accepted Conduct brought about by Online Anonymity
  • The Western Based belief that the Majority Demographic ‘Own’ Digital Landscapes
  • The Sub-par use for Insult Debate Tactics

Now, these were presented as reasons for and why Racist, Sexist and Personal Insults where implemented but that was more down to which quote was implemented for what interview. These reasoning could very well be shifted in order to justify each other, with anonymity being the reasoning behind toxic behavior like revenge porn, a massive gender-based issue brought about by open Digital Landscapes. Similarly, Personal Attack can be made to distract from real issues being debated, one the subject of race, calling someone a racist often derails the debunking of their beliefs and simply alienates their audience, stopping them from really posting anywhere but the hate forums.

The point is the internet is an open forum, and when in a free speech abiding open forum, it is inevitable one will encounter hate speech and toxicity. This should be a rarer occurrence, but as seen throughout this paper, when subjects contribute to the digital landscapes the frequent, it is important to be mindful and not fall into the traps of insult debate, racism or sexism despite the ease of ability provided by access to search engines, similar communities and the power given by anonymity