A subreddit for people who want to discuss their evil plans
For a few weeks in earlyit looked like the internet just might break the stock market. And, of course, it's also a Harambe reference. For the brief moment that Reddit-coordinated daytraders did war with institutional investors, the vast, multifaceted, and confusing community that is Reddit was on display.
Reddit is massively popular—Alexa ranks it as 7th in the U. But because Reddit is so many different things to different people, it often gains widespread attention for the wrong reasons. Reddit is the most visible Weirdest subreddits. Forums hail back to bulletin boards, a pre-networked form of digital community in which many users would dial in to the same single computer, read and post messages, then log out to make room for the next user.
Forums tend to be text-based, though many support images, and some imageboards focus primarily on images. Useneta text-based internet forum created in by a pair of graduate students at Duke University, became the breeding ground for pre-web internet culture, giving birth to emoji, flame wars, trolling, and abbreviations like LOL. Usenet was a truly distributed network: Users would post messages to a particular node and their messages would be spread to other federated servers. There was no central way to moderate Usenet messages—when spammers began advertising on the network, the only way to delete their posts was by using blocklists at each individual server.
While this was technically unwieldy, it illustrated a strongly held de principle—each user should have the right to decide the speech she wanted to see and wanted to filter out. When users began requesting topics that administrators thought were inappropriate—notably rec. Surprising absolutely no one, this set of Usenet groups grew rapidly and quickly eclipsed the formal hierarchy of computation and academic-focused groups.
Forums became an extremely popular form of web community in Japan, with 2channel 2ch. It was a powerful release valve in a culture known for structure and formality, weirdest subreddits it was also a vector for harassment and extreme speech. Analyzing 4chan, its predecessors and successors in his book It Came From Something Awfuljournalist Dale Berran identifies a strain of nihilism that he sees as drawing users to 4chan and fueling movements like the alt-right and incel culture.
Indeed, much of what was most popular had been incubated within 4chan. They did so, in droves— more than 2.
Unfortunately, with the ability to create subreddits came the ability to convene communities around hateful topics. Beneath the toxicity of some highly visible subreddits, much of Reddit is surprisingly healthy and even wholesome. Co-author Ethan Zuckerman teaches a class on fixing social media that includes an asment in which students must identify and write a case study on healthy online communities—inevitably a third of these communities are subreddits, often support groups for people coping with chronic diseases, etc.
These sites are important both because they can be some of the healthiest communities online and some of the weirdest. While these sites have a common technical root in forum software, understanding them as subcultural logics may be a better way of absorbing their key characteristics. These forms of social media sites are focused on specific topics, and often defend the boundaries of that topic, expressing hostility to the intrusion of other topics.
A subreddit for people who want to photoshop arms onto birds
They are likely to develop their own norms and practices, which may bring them into conflict with the broader norms and standards of the platforms they operate on top of. This lack of specific affordances le to creative repurposing of other tools, or the development of helper tools—there is a small ecosystem of tools like Imgurwhich exist primarily to provide services to communities within Reddit.
Finally, because these subcommunities are so different, your experience interacting with one specific community may be wildly different than interacting with another subcultural community. Beyond Reddit, which acts like a mega-forum in the U. Some examples of communities with their own sites: Archive of Our Own, introduced by Casey Fiesler in her essay in this series on gift logic; Ravelrywhich has emerged as a massive force in the knitting and crafting community with 9 weirdest subreddits registered members and a million monthly viewers; Letterboxda community for film lovers; Mumsneta massively popular parenting forum in the U.
After the election, TheDonald. Forums broadly, and Reddit specifically, present an earlier model for social media, focused on topics of common interest rather than on preexisting social relationships.
From trees sucking on things to monks looking at beer.
General-purpose social networks like Facebook work to connect people with individuals they already interact within the physical weirdest subreddits. Forums offer a different model, the ability to connect with people who share a common interest, but not necessarily a common background. Forums offer the intriguing possibility that we might meet people with different backgrounds and origins, united only by a shared interest.
This sort of heterogeneity does not come without consequences. As mentioned above, subcultural spaces often experience stress when other topics intervene, particularly political discussions. Knitting site Ravelry experienced intense pressures during the Trump administration as politics became an unavoidable part of the crafting subculture, as Carrie Battan explains in an excellent piece in The New Yorker.
Ravelry eventually banned Deplorable Knitter, who went on to establish her own Politically Incorrect Knitters community.
Subcultural solidarity is strong, but can be challenged when it encounters political tensions and other divisions. Subculture logic is an attempt to recreate those communities online, and an important one. Does subculture logic have any lessons for other types of social media? Subcultural communities often rely on community governance. One reason may be that people in subcultural communities are passionate about them and thus willing to invest in them.
Reddit maintains its massive site with only employees.
LinkedIn, which is much smaller, has 15, employees. The secret? Reddit relies on tens of thousands of volunteer moderators, who handle most of the work of site moderation and governance day-to-day. This implies that with platforms that lack a similar level of investment in the community, community governance may be less successful. It is likely, however, that governing topic-focused communities is likely vastly easier than governing general-purpose spaces like Facebook or Twitter.
Peck, the Reddit moderator, offers one reason :. Sometimes they post gore porn, or threats to find me and hurt me.
My rules are both obvious kittens are great; no gore porn, no threats and deed to prevent misuse of the platform no social media links or handles, weirdest subreddits no spamming. Having very specific purposes for communities and rules that follow from those purposes can make the task of governance ificantly more manageable.
Additionally, the strong norms and practices in subculture communities help to fend off context collapse, a problem endemic to networks like Facebook and Twitter. This points to a potential solution: Perhaps to avoid context collapse on those platforms, you simply take the conversation elsewhere. So, if a conversation starts on Twitter but seems like it might be a better fit in a specific context, you move the conversation to that other space.
Instead of hashing it out on Twitter in full public view, with all the associated bad dynamics, what if the original poster suggested taking the conversation to a space dedicated to discussing that topic, or a space dedicated to intellectual discussion? This could be a way to combine what networks like Twitter or Facebook do well—virality and frictionless connection—with what subcultural spaces do well—putting weirdest subreddits conversation in context and sharing it only with the people interested in it.
Subcultural communities online have been connecting people of all different stripes since the earliest days of the internet. These interest-based communities may actually support some of the utopian proclamations about the internet leading to a new age of human connection and development.
Alas, these communities also host some of the most toxic and extreme subcultures found online. Perhaps there is no utopia without accompanying dystopia. Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci is a research fellow at the Knight Institute. Ethan Zuckerman is associate professor of public policy, information and communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, director of the Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure, and was the visiting research scholar at the Knight First Amendment Institute.
Blog Toward a Better Internet.