The Ambivalent InternetMischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online
The Ambivalent Internet
Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online
This book explores the weird and mean and in-between that characterize everyday expression online, from absurdist photoshops to antagonistic Twitter hashtags to deceptive identity play.

Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner focus especially on the ambivalence of this expression: the fact that it is too unwieldy, too variable across cases, to be essentialized as old or new, vernacular or institutional, generative or destructive. Online expression is, instead, all of the above. This ambivalence, the authors argue, hinges on available digital tools. That said, there is nothing unexpected or surprising about even the strangest online behavior. Ours is a brave new world, and there is nothing new under the sun – a point necessary to understanding not just that online spaces are rife with oddity, mischief, and antagonism, but why these behaviors matter.

<i>The Ambivalent Internet</i> is essential reading for students and scholars of digital media and related fields across the humanities, as well as anyone interested in mediated culture and expression.

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  • June 2017
  • 240 pages
  • 160 x 221 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9781509501267
  • Paperback $26.00
  • 9781509501274
  • Open eBook $21.00
  • 9781509501304
Table of Contents


1. Folkloric Expression

2. Identity Play

3. Constitutive Humor

4. Collective Storytelling

5. Public Debate




About the Author
Ryan M. Milner is Assistant Professor of Communication at the College of Charleston.

Whitney Phillips is Assistant Professor of Literary Studies and Writing at Penfield College, Mercer University.
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"Memes, trolling and weird internet jokes are becoming part of the everyday language of contemporary societies, whether occupying centre stage in mainstream politics or scuttling around in the darkest corners of the web. In this book, two leading scholars of digital communication have joined forces, in turn bringing folklore together with rigorously forensic studies of internet culture to create a new theoretical vocabulary for understanding, researching and teaching the Internet’s multiple vernaculars." - Jean Burgess, Queensland University of Technology

"From pranks and tasteless jokes to political propaganda, it's never been more important to face how online media give rise to and amplify the longstanding communal practices that lie between play and hate, fun and cruelty. Like its subject, this book is both entertaining and disturbing. It's an honest, uneasy, and essential reckoning. You'll laugh, feel bad you did, and understand." - Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research

“[The book’s] wide range of cases serve as a powerful starting point for theorizing ambivalent expression. A key strength of the book lies in the authors’ personal writing style, making it both an accessible and enjoyable read. The book will be of interest to both students and senior scholars examining cultural production, community building, participation, and political communication online.”
Johan Farkas, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

“This book is highly informative to a wider readership especially in its discussions about what ethical and political problems are at stake in the digitally mediated space.”
Dayei Oh, Loughborough University

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