Flaming? What flaming? The pitfalls and potentials of researching online hostility
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This article identifies several critical problems with the last 30 years of research into hostile communication on the internet and offers suggestions about how scholars might address these problems and better respond to an emergent and increasingly dominant form of online discourse which I call ‘e-bile’. Although e-bile is new in terms of its prevalence, rhetorical noxiousness, and stark misogyny, prototypes of this discourse—most commonly referred to as ‘flaming’—have always circulated on the internet, and, as such, have been discussed by scholars from a range of disciplines. Nevertheless, my review of this vast body of literature reveals that online hostility has historically posed a number of conceptual, methodological, and epistemological challenges due to which scholars have typically underplayed, overlooked, ignored, or otherwise marginalised its prevalence and serious ethical and material ramifications. Fortunately, lessons learned from my analysis suggests promising approaches for future research into this challenging form of new media discourse.