Social Sciences and the Internet

  • C.L. Cook (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conferenceScientific


Asocial behaviour online, also called “trolling” in cyberspace, is a common phenomenon. It is, however, also a subject of apparent academic confusion; the few studies conducted thus far yielded a variety of conflicting definitions regarding what constitutes trolling behaviour (Buckels et al., 2014; Fichman & Sanfilippo, 2014; Shachaf & Hara, 2010; Thacker & Griffiths, 2012). In addition, very few of these studies have involved actual online community members in the research (Herring et al., 2002; Luzón, 2011), and those that did either examined only the victims’ or bystanders’ perspective (Maltby et al., 2015; Shachaf & Hara, 210) or presented trolls as a largely homogeneous group with one personality type and limited motivations (Buckels et al., 2014; Thacker & Griffiths, 2012). As a result, it is unclear exactly which behaviours constitute true tolling and why it is trolls act the way they do online. In order to shed further light on this phenomenon, the present study has three primary aims: 1) determine which behaviours actual trolls consider as trolling, 2) explore the motivations behind trolling, and 3) examine the influence of the online community on trolling behaviour. To do this, we have chosen to use a qualitative approach. We reported on 22 semi-structured interviews conducted via Skype with self-confessed trolls over the age of 18 who are active in the online gaming community. This study focuses on trolls within the online gaming context because the game setting allows for more types of trolling, namely behavioural (i.e., playing the game in such a way as to aggravate others) and verbal trolling (i.e., swearing, intentionally provoking conflict, name-calling, etc.), while other settings will only allow for verbal. Interview questions cover trolls’ own gaming habits and preferences, their observations of the gaming community at large, and their own trolling experiences as perpetrator, bystander, and victim. By examining trolls’ community views as well as their personal experiences, we work not only to build a substantive definition of trolling upon which future theories can be built, but also to present a multi-faceted view of an often stereotyped online subculture.
Period1 Jul 2016
Event typeConference
Conference number3
LocationEindhoven, Netherlands


  • Trolling
  • Qualitative
  • Interviews