You can write anything online, or in a thesis for that matter, with the right supervisor
So I don’t know how to say this without super doxxing myself or the guy I am talking about. I’ll just have to be super vague. There’s this bug name fan/modder, who was active in the REDACTED GAME forums around 2005-2012. He published some REDACTED MEDIUM AND GENRE of his own, but he more or less quit the scene, as well as the REDACTED FANDOM community, in order to finally go to university. He completed his MSc in sociology in 2016.
Naturally, he wrote his thesis on the REDACTED FANDOM community, about things that happened right after he left, from an “outside” perspective.
And now he’s back, not really posting in the old forum again, not using his old account, but he reached out to some of his old friends, and this way we became aware of his new handle in a different forum. He got into an argument about politics and linked to a pdf of his thesis hosted on a university page with a URL like soc.dem.blz.ac.co.uk/~chucktingle/2016/thesis.pdf “to educate yourself”.
Some of us have read it, and… it’s bad. He wrote about stupid fandom beef and forum drama that happened in 2013, but it’s pretty clear that he never set a foot (or rather browser tab) in the forums ever again after he left. He mostly worked based off of information from mainstream media reporting, citing other academic work, and quoting the occasional blog post. He doesn’t really cite quote or cite the forum posts to support his ideas or to exemplify how individual posters in the REDACTED GAME forums are ruining the Internet. He did his darnedest not to look like somebody who was a member of the group he wrote about.
The whole thing has the energy - or at least the background radiation - of a 22 year-old apologising for having been a cringe teenager, still too self-conscious to dismiss the folly of his youth with the realisation that everybody was young once and everybody gets older if they don’t die young. It feels like the desperate bargaining of a dying man: Sure, I may have been uncool then, but I am not uncool now, am I? I mean, I was cool with the teenagers then, I know this because I was one of them, but I realise now that I was cringe then, but I am not now. I assure you, I mean I am cool now, right? Not based though. Based is a bad word. Do the teenagers think I am cringe? Do they know they are cringe?
But here’s the thing that made me have to write this post to get it out of my system: This thesis about inconsequential drama from 2013 gets key details wrong, details you could confirm by going there today, and checking back with web.archive.org. On the one hand, it’s inconsequential online drama, but on the other hand, this guy thought it was important enough to write about, and important because it’s a key to understanding the world of today, but it’s just wrong and sloppy. He even misrepresents people he was friends with, people he actually had, continued to have, and still has access to. It’s like he had been a member of that community for years, left, and then decided to write about something that happened between the people he was very familiar with based on first principles and textbooks, instead of doing some field work.
And now he is reaching out to old friends, but he is also back at it again, posting, except instead of linking to old forum threads, he is on a different forum, linking people to his papers.
It’s just jarring how he completely misrepresents people on both sides, how he builds up certain posters as paragons of virtue and social justice, and ascribes SJW opinions they don’t hold to them purely because the got into fandom arguments with anti-SJW posters. If this was really the key to understanding how the US got Trump, and if it’s still worth reposting in 2021, what does it mean to your thesis if the underlying premises turn out to be false?
The cherry on top: Some of those people got cancelled since 2016, because in hindsight, their highly publicised and highly scrutinised behaviour back then turns out to have been insufficiently woke. Nobody could have predicted it at the time, of course.
This is probably Gell-Mann amnesia at work. It’s just in this case, I know the guy, and I know he could have done a good job.
The annals of “humanities publications are just sloppy and systematically refuse to do the legwork of real research” continues.