After a semester of fighting the really bad writing produced by my more or less indifferent students, I can’t begin to describe how free I feel now that I’ve submitted my final grades and put two conferences—New Narrative IV (NNIV) and Computers & Writing (CWCon)—safely behind me. Between all that, my creative projects, and deciding on a Ph.D. program, it’s been an exhausting year. Inb4 TL;DR & STFU.
At any rate, despite the looming threat of Rapture, and the fact that I’d only just returned from NNIV, CWCon was an absolute blast. As my first CWcon, and the largest of the whopping 3 conferences I’ve attended this past year, I was anticipating an experience as nerve-wracking as the MLA or the four C’s (neither of which I’ve actually attended). Throw in the fact that I had 15 minutes to sum up years of lurking (er, research) I’ve done on 4chan, and you have some idea of how intimidated I was.
So, I was surprised by 1) how much I was actually able to cover about /b/’s linguistic practices, and 2) how warm, welcoming, and supportive everyone was. I networked like mad and presented on what I hope is an entry into my dissertation research: 4chan, the semiotics of chanspeak, /b/, trolling, and grammatical memes.
In lurking /b/, I have been repeatedly struck by the intelligence and wit demonstrated in chantards’ wordplay, repartees, orthographic experimentation, and stringent policing of grammatical conventions in chanspeak and in formal English (despite one manifesto claiming, “We do not spell/We do not count/Post your tits/Or get the fuck out). This is in direct contrast to existing articles and scholarship on 4chan and /b/, ranging from Faux News‘s portrayal of /b/tards as “antisocial, foul-mouthed, clever nerds” and “hackers on steroids” to Gawker’s early summation of the board as brain-melting. My feeling, based solely on my limited academic interactions, is that most NORPs find /b/ intriguing and are willing to entertain the notion that chanspeak and trolling are complex practices worthy of examination…even if they’re unwilling to go to the site themselves.
It’s understandable. Frequenting 4chan, particularly /b/, may require a strong stomach, a willingness to rape your childhood, and enough patience to acquire a language for which there is no learning curve. But I think, in spite of everything, that the learning process is rewarding.
As you might have guessed, I’m also fascinated by new narrative forms enabled by the various registers made possible in online discourse. When Encyclopedia Dramatica (ED) went down in April just as I was beginning to write my CWcon presentation paper, on sites like 4chan and Encyclopedia Dramatica (ED), where the alt attribute of hypertext and image links forms a narrative that enriches the narrative formed by unformatted text.
Aside from everything cyberculture, I’m also interested in comics, comics-based literacy initiatives, education reform at the secondary and higher-ed levels, and animation. My first conference evar(!!!1!!!) was Purdue University’s Graphic Engagement 2010, where I presented on trauma representation seen in the divergence in meaning in visual and verbal elements in the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
That conference—and being able to say I’m the first(?) to publish in-depth critical scholarship on the series—is what pushed me to keep conferencing, which in turn pushed me to go back for my Ph.D. CWcon is more directly responsible for spawning this blog, as other school- or job-related incidents have spawned now-baleeted blogs, and I hope to actually maintain this one as a sort of public brainstorming site, for ethnographic purposes and my own sanity.
This work by V. Manivannan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.