My project was conducted as a part of the 2012 Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities, which focused on the study of Borderlands as a paradigm for interdisciplinary research. I took as my border the emerging division online between the Social web and the Anonymous web, between the spaces where communication is tied to "real life" identity and spaces where communication occurs anonymously. I specifically examined the ways in which communicative space in sites the Social Web like Facebook comes to function to commodify speech, in contrast to spaces in the Anonymous web like 4chan (http://boards.4chan.org/b/) which resist this trend. I studied the community and signifying practices of 4chan's random board /b/, finding that although the fundamental anonymity and ephemerality of communication on the board free up participants to be racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally malevolent to degrees unseen in the Social web, these same conditions create a space for truly free speech (in both the monetary and behavioral sense), creating a novel mode of signification and a space for subversive political consciousness in the process.
This experience really opened my eyes to a new level of scholarship and showed me that intellectual curiosity and scholarly work, both in English and interdisciplinary study, don't have to be bounded by the pages of the literary canon, but can extend to new forms of communication usually thought of as insignificant (or, as in the case of 4chan, morally corrupt).
BA in English: Language and Literature, 2014
UW English Department Honors
- Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Summer 2012
- UW Summer Research Institute in the Arts & Humanities, 2012
- "NSFW: The Subversive Cultural Logic of Anonymous Online Culture," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2013