Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
4chan, a website known for its anonymous language play and vitriol, frequently dances the line between various levels of identity work – generally within the span of thematic boards or topic specific threads contained therein. This paper will expand on one particular setting within the 4chan community, a board known as “/pol/,” or politically incorrect, and highlight how this dance is often played out. Typically, one aspect of identity work here is demonstrated through the use of chosen or IP anchored “flags” that each user has attached to the posts they make, and the next aspect is the interactions within these distinct, separate threads themselves, as discursive entities -- wherein users may change stances, frames, perspectives and even “flags” from one subject or discussion to the next, sometimes developing a narrative from one thread to another (Page 2015; De Fina 2016). In this paper, drawing from field data I have gathered within this board, I will demonstrate how the use of flags, as a “semi-stable” identity marker in an otherwise anonymous digital space contributes to strategic discourses between users in interaction: ranging from political affiliation (ironically or literally) to national allegiance or presence, and the social clout such claims lend the users during the discussions or responses within these threads (Nissenbaum and Shifman 2017, Ludemann 2018). This paper seeks to complicate the understanding of anchored and identity play as is understood in “offline” context, and likewise how these concepts themselves become re-contextualized and re-imagined within online spaces like 4chan.