The Phreakers, The Hackers, and The Trolls


Phone Phreak.

In this post, I would first like to address the relevance of the documentary that we watched in class to Gabriella Coleman’s piece on phreakers, hackers, and trolls. It was interesting to see  in the documentary and the reading how hacking began and progressed throughout the years. Both sources mentioned the origin of hacking may have began in the 1950’s at MIT and similar university institutions and with telephone phreakers. It was shocking to find out that hacking had not started out as a term coined for its relevance to computers today. I knew the word “hacking” had to have come from somewhere, but what I didn’t know was that the term had roots prior to internet and computer usage. In addition, before reading Coleman’s work, I had never heard of telephone phreakers. I’m certain that I wasn’t the only one who had not been exposed to the term prior to the reading and documentary. In fact, I’m sure the majority of the people in our generation would have no idea what a telephone phreaker is if they were asked.  With that said, it was quite interesting to learn about how telephone phreakers in the past found shortcuts in the telephone system of the time and were able to utilize the system to their advantage.

Moving past the age of the telephone and into the age of the computer and internet, Coleman mentioned “Bulletin Board Systems,” or BBSes, which were computerized meetings and announcement systems that allowed its users to share files, make announcements, play games, and communicate. These systems allows its users to talk about a rather large variety of topics. As I read about these BBSes, I found that they were probably the predecessors to online forums. Coleman mentions that people, purposely looked for others to insult and verbally abuse on the discussion boards. They would post infuriating comments that were directed towards others, expecting an intended response. As I read about this, it reminded me of how interactions on a lot of forums and many webpages  with enabled comments go today. I find that people very often have something negative to say about the points of views of others. This is most evident on sites that enable comments and allow people to openly state their opinions. For example, many of us are familiar with YouTube, a site that allows its users to upload and share their videos with the online community. Well, Youtube users have the ability to comment and provide feedback on videos posted by others if the comments are enabled. This ability gives users the chance to offer positive comments and encouragement, but it also comes with a risk of receiving negative contributions as well. In fact, there are people who purposely post insulting comments just to stir up negative emotions in others. It’s quite interesting that this happens so often online, because people aren’t daring to insult others in person, so why would they feel the need to insult them on the internet? What ever happened to the saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, do say anything at all”?


Troll Face.

When Coleman goes on to further discuss the presence of trolls on the internet and their role in this world of hacking, I realized that during my time spent on the internet, I have seen countless screening clippings of people trolling others and cartoons depicting a character falling victim to an irritable situation. However, I haven’t not yet experienced or even witnessed any form of trolling first hand, not that I would want to. Because of this, I feel that perhaps people are more likely to create cartoons that depict trolling just for the laughs than to openly target other people. In fact, many of the screen clippings of trolls in action may not be real incidents of trolling and are instead fabrications to entertain others. However, with all this said, I am not saying that trolls aren’t out there. There are definitely some people out there that start arguments and upset people just for their own amusement.

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