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Funny or Aggressive? Failed Humour in Internet Comments

Author(s): Liisi Laineste

Journal: Folklore : Electronic Journal of Folklore
ISSN 1406-0957

Volume: 53;
Start page: 29;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Internet | computer mediated communication | humour | verbal aggression | failed humour

Jokes, ethnic slurs and parodies often occur in Internet comments, as the general feeling of anonymity allows for and even favours balancing on the verge of the acceptable and the unacceptable. Thus, a humorously intended comment can be perceived as aggressive by other Internet users. This possibility is further enhanced by the fact that the electronic media in general and computer mediated communication (CMC) in particular lacks non-verbal conversational cues that would signal the intentions of the communicator with greater, though not absolute, accuracy. The interrelations between online humour and aggression have so far escaped the attention of researchers, although scholarly discussions concerning these two phenomena in face-to-face interaction have been frequent. This paper analyses comment sequences in the Delfi news portal ( from 2000 to 2007. Delfi is an Estonian online news website known for its liberal attitude towards commenting. The aim of the article is to describe the boundaries between humour and verbal aggressiveness and address the notion of failed humour through its occurrence in online communication. In addition to presenting the patterns of humorous and aggressive modalities in comment sequences, some cases in which humour changes into aggressiveness are analysed.
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