USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘pranks’
Customs
Digital
Humor

“Swatting” on the Internet

Swatting is the act of pulling a prank on another by falsely reporting serious threats such as incidences of domestic violence, shootings, and hostage situations to the police. Using altered caller IDs and voice modification devices to conceal their identity, these pranksters use these terrifying threats to mobilize police forces into entering the homes of and arresting the chosen victims.

The term “swatting” was coined by the FBI in 2008, when the phenomenon began gaining serious popularity. Typically, this prank is pulled within the online gaming community while gamers are using Twitch, a website used to livestream a gamer’s playthrough of a game to the entire world. Because these livestreams can be so popular, it has become customary to swat a gamer while he or she is using a digital camera to stream his/her face. This way, thousands of people around the world can watch as a person is aggressively arrested and charged for a horrible crime. Often, the videos recorded from these events are posted onto YouTube, where many who find the prank amusing decide to participate in it themselves.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. He knew a victim of this prank in high school, and has since maintained interest in the internet phenomena. While Ian considers the act terrible, he is still fascinated by the immorality of those who partake in it. Although he sees the activity as an awful internet trend, he watches videos of it because he is intrigued by the violence surrounding it.

As someone who has grown up with the internet as its culture has become more advanced and developed, it is quite interesting to see how dark some of its aspects have become. Although the internet can be very personal, the popularity of this activity is likely a result of the lack of face to face contact between those interacting on it. When a prankster cannot physically see the long-term consequences of his or her actions, it becomes easier to commit to the act. This is probably why so many have swatted others.

More information concerning this subject can be found here: http://www.complex.com/life/2016/02/swatting-is-proof-that-the-internet-sucks-as-much-as-you-thought

Mench, Chris. “What Is Swatting, and What Does It Tell Us About the Internet’s Worst Qualities?” Complex.com. Complex, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Examples of this phenomenon can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiW-BVPCbZk

CrowbCat. “10 Streamers Get Swatted Live.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Digital
Humor

Getting “Rick Rolled”

On sites like YouTube, it has been customary to “Rick Roll” someone who is looking for specific content/video. Often, when someone is searching for something of interest online, it is common to click on a seemingly relevant link to instead find the music video for Rick Astley’s 1987 song “Never Gonna Give You Up” playing. Even though this prank is harmless, it tends to be incredibly frustrating for its victims, as they are left feeling deceived and without whatever it is they were looking for. For the pranksters who are uploading these videos intentionally, this prank is quite entertaining because it allows them to feel that they have tricked a complete stranger.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. He was first introduced to this phenomenon in the 9th grade after attempting to find a video he had been looking for on YouTube. He admits that while it can be frustrating to fall victim to it, it is still highly entertaining because it is so unexpected. He also enjoys how silly the video seems compared to today’s music videos. To him, the trend is interesting because it represents the randomness of and complete lack of control over the internet.

This phenomenon is fascinating because of its unpredictable nature. In American society, people tend to value completely understanding their actions and being able to predict their consequences. It is because of this that these videos are so disconcerting. We are so used to being able to easily find what we are looking for that it is genuinely surprising when something completely irrelevant shows up instead.

The relevant video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0

Digital
Folk speech
Humor
Signs

The “Trollface”

The “trollface” is a popular image that can be found online. It is meant to represent the face an internet “troll”, or prankster, makes after playing a prank on another. The image often appears on an online discussion when an individual intentionally interrupts the flow of the conversation by mischievously misdirecting the original poster. The image usually follows one of these situations, indicating that a trick has been pulled. Sometimes, the image includes intentionally misspelled words or grammatical errors in order to frustrate readers even more. Because of the negative connotation surrounding it, the image can be frustrating for those who had been taking the conversation seriously.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. The image has a special place in his heart, as it is one of the first internet memes that he encountered in his younger years. He learned about the image after seeing it posted in the popular comedy website ebaumsworld.com, where many similar humorous images and videos are posted. For Ian, this image in particular is entertaining because it represents the triviality of the many arguments that internet posters have. He argues that after coming across so many useless and childish arguments that people on the internet have, it is refreshing to see someone mess with them with a quick joke and the posting of the image.

What is interesting about this image is the fact a simple image that used to be insignificant has gathered much connotation and meaning. Even though the image was posted by a single individual, thousands of people came together online to assign a definition and purpose to it. Because of this, the image should be considered a strong indicator of the collaborative nature of the internet.

 

trollface

Digital
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Pranks

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One of the most popular questions that have been asked over the years are about senior pranks, or really any prank for that matter. Senior pranks are a tradition in American school where students in their last year of high school decide the go out with a bang and prank the school, usually in a humorous way. I asked my friend Will, who sends me funny or interesting things he finds on Reddit, what his favorite senior prank was that he saw on Reddit, and this is what he found…

“My friend tapped into the PA system and figured out how to broadcast from anywhere. He found an English teacher that was willing to collude, and near the end of the year he started broadcasting pre-recorded messages to the whole school.

the administration had no idea where it was coming from and they followed every lead that the broadcasts claimed they originated from (including the local high school burger joint). a lot of the broadcasts were hilarious, including a fake emergency drill where the speaker said that our study desks could double as flotation devices and that our teachers would demonstrate.

We had a nice lunch one day where we got to listen to opera and classical music.

Eventually he got caught but it was only because he let too many people know. because he didn’t broadcast anything offensive he didn’t get into any trouble.”

Me: How did you find this?

Will: It was a while back, and it was just a thread that I would always go to when I was bored and just shift through. This is one that always stuck out to me.

Me: Why?

Will: I just love it. A lot of pranks nowadays go too big and they usually destroy property or hurt somebody. This is just harmless fun.

Me: It reminds me of when, in “The Shawshank Redemption”, Andy started playing classical music into the prison.

Will: Yeah! Yeah!

Me: So, let me ask you, if you were to do this prank, what would you play?

Will: Oh, I’d play some fucking death metal or something.

Me: You don’t even like death metal.

Will: I know! Nobody does! That’s why it’d be so funny. That’s the other thing, is that kid who pulled that prank should work as a writer. “Use your desk as a flotation device”. I stole that joke one time in class and everybody laughed. It’s priceless.

Will and I have often spent time talking about pranks, especially those that we see as detrimental and end up hurting people or damaging property. It makes sense to me that Will would love this prank. It’s not only harmless, but it’s incredibly witty. I personally think it’s a much better prank for both of those reasons. One of the reasons I asked Will about what he would do if given that opportunity was because I knew Will loved thinking about that. He likes hearing stories and wondering what he would do if he was in that situation. Even when he watches movies, he puts himself in the shoes of the main character and says what he would’ve done. I think he partially likes this story because he wants to think he could be that witty.

Customs
Folk speech
Game
Humor
Initiations

“Two bears in a shower…”

The Joke:

Two bears are taking a shower. One of the bears asks the other, “Hey do you have any soap?” The other replies, “No soap…radio.”

Analysis:

“The joke is,” the informant said, “that it’s not really a joke. It doesn’t make any sense. But if you’re in a group of people and you and a few buddies are in on the joke together, one of you says the joke and everyone else just needs to laugh as if it’s the funniest thing ever. No one else is going to get it. They’re going to be really confused and then from there…it just gets funnier. It’s beautiful.”

Collector: Where did you learn it?

Informant: On a retreat I went on last year, during the drive up, two of the guys [who were older members] in my car did it to us. I had heard similar jokes before, so I picked up on it and started laughing, too. But the two other girls that were in the car had no idea and got really pissed. And even after we explained it to them, that it’s not supposed to make any sense, they didn’t find it funny at all.

 

I think this “joke,” or rather meta-joke (in which the joke aren’t the words but rather the situation of performance that becomes the joke) beautifully exemplifies the use of prank in liminal space. This retreat that the informant attended, he later explained, was a new members retreat to get the new members situated in the group. Ironically, while the intention of the retreat is to integrate additional people into community, the older members in fact alienated some of them. The informant, however, having figured out the joke earned a kind of place among the “big boys.” When asked if the joke was enacted intentionally as a bonding/alienating experience, the informant clarified that it probably wasn’t. Rather it may have just been an irresponsible prank in which the potential consequences hadn’t been fully recognized prior to enacting it on that nature of a retreat. Nevertheless, the experience illustrates a tension that lies between old members and the new: those who are in on the joke and those who are not. And if you happen to be new and yet somehow in on the joke, then you have only affirmed that you belonged in the group all along, even prior to having joined.

This type of prank emphasizes the binaries that establish identity: the “us” and “them” distinction, the “us” presumably being the originals.

Adulthood
Customs
Game
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hiding The Groom’s Shoes

Item:

“One of the most elaborately staged pranks at a desi (typically North Indian or Pakistani) wedding is the theft of the groom’s shoes by the bride’s younger sisters and female cousins. The groom has to bargain for his shoes to be returned to him with these young girls, often offering them money, sweets, and jewelry in exchange for them. It has become a tradition emblematic to our weddings.”

Context:

The interviewee related her experience with this tradition to me: “The first time I got the chance to have my cousins do this for me was when I was getting married to your uncle. It was hilarious. He was running around, looking for the shoes like some desperate fellow, and they managed to swindle about a thousand rupees each from him! Not to mention all the sweets they got in exchange. It was amazing.”

Analysis:

There are a few explanations for this ritual-impeding prank. The first is that the Indian groom, who has to arrive at the wedding venue from another location, some distance away,and usually on a horse or an elephant, cannot proceed with the actual wedding sacraments if he doesn’t have his shoes with him. This, effectively, would put a stop to the wedding and interrupt the smooth flowing of a very important liminal period in one’s life – the time in which one is a groom, not yet married, and not really unmarried either. Secondly, India, being a rather patriarchal society, sees a wedding as the groom’s family taking possession of the bride. Therefore, in retaliation, the girls from the bride’s side take their revenge, symbolically and humorously, by stealing an important component of the groom’s outfit and thereby threatening the marriage. The money is supposed to be a sort of compensation for the bride being taken away. And finally, and perhaps rather obscurely, is the deeply-entrenched ancient practice of child-betrothal and child marriage in Indian society. In a time when children were the main participants in these weddings, these little games would have assuaged their confusion and engaged their attention to the very religious, and sometimes pretty long-winded sacraments.

Gestures
Humor

Duct taping prank

My friend is a student at Cal Poly Pomona.  But when he was in high school he was in the marching band.  His high school’s marching band had a particularly strict sense of hierarchy, and so freshmen who were just joining the band were expected to “stay in their place.”  This is an account my friend told me, of a freshman who was particularly unruly and how upperclassmen retaliated during band camp, a week in which the band members train and get to know each other:

“There was this one kid, who, um… who was a freshman, and he was pretty much just a general asshole.  Um, he didn’t show up to practice, he’d cut in line past seniors to get to food and stuff like that, and… he was even worse to people who were, like, of his year.  And… yeah, so basically he’d go around stealing people’s stuff.  And so, one of the seniors were like… “So um,yeah, this is too far so we need to get back at him.”  So we took duct tape and we duct taped his sleeping bag… until there was more duct tape than actual sleeping bag.  And… yeah, basically it was like… justice.  But kind of like, vigilante justice or something like that.”

[“Do you feel that pranks like this kind of enforce the hierarchy you guys have? Like, if people fall out of line…”]

“Yeah, for sure, ‘cause generally if you are being really… arrogant, and, you know, just a general douchebag… we try to put you back in your place.”

My friend definitely thinks that this disproportionate retribution was effective in perpetuating the cultural hierarchy of his high school band.  The duct taping tradition in that particular community far predates my friend’s account.  He remembers it as one of the more common gestures used in disciplining freshmen.

There’s a certain discontinuity betweem the nature of the prank and the values it’s supposed to reinforce.  Band requires a lot of self-disicipline and respect of bandmates/directors, yet this prank is demeaning to the target.  I think this irony can be explained by the way band’s hierarchy works.  As my friend said, the targets of these pranks are usually unruly or arrogant freshmen.  So, as a form of reciporcity, the upperclassmen return acts of disrespect with more disrespect.  On the other hand, it seems likely that duct taping is something that amuses high schoolers because it demeans the target.  There’s a constant struggle of being “better,” and strict hierarchies like band help to reinforce that way of thinking.

Digital
Game
Legends
Narrative

World of Warcraft Legends – SuperAIDS

My informant used to play World of Warcraft for a period of about 5 years, and during his time with the game, he has come across several stories.  The two stories he told me about were the SuperAIDS story and the Leeroy Jenkins story.  This story is about SuperAIDS.

According to my informant, SuperAIDS was the player given nickname of a debuff [essentially a curse] that a particular boss character would inflict upon the players.  This debuff would deal damage to the inflicted player and would spread to any nearby allied units.  The debuff could be cleansed by a particular class and be stopped.  However, this debuff would sometimes get on a player’s pet, and one of the ways to deal with this was simply dismiss the pet rather than wait for someone to cleanse it off, because it’s really hard to see if it’s on someone’s pet and just as hard to target the pet.  So players with pets would simply dismiss them and be done with it.  Unfortunately, the debuff didn’t go away, so when they went back to major cities, and summoned their pet, the debuff would still be there.  Once players figured out this was happening, they got their pets infected and brought them into the major cities and started spreading the disease intentionally.  The disease would spread rapidly between players and would kill almost anyone who wasn’t highest level.  Normally this would just be considered a prank but the disease would also spread to NPC’s [non-player characters].  The major problem with this was that NPC’s regenerate their health when out of combat and this regeneration outpaced the rate of damage from the disease.  So the disease would kill almost any player who came into contact with it, but it would never get off the NPC’s.  This is perhaps how the name SuperAIDS came about, because it didn’t go away.  Anyway, this meant that, as the disease was spread, more and more areas of the game became essentially uninhabitable because your character would just get infected and die over and over.  This persisted for about a week until the devs were able to patch the game, eliminating the disease from the NPC’s and preventing the disease from leaving the raid encounter.  And even though the game of WoW is played in several different servers, because the players all communicate online, nearly every server experienced this in some way.

[geolocation]