Portrait of an anonymous image board: the board-tans of 4chan
Shedd, Jesse Bernard
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Compared to other online communities, relatively little is written academically about 4chan. This is likely because of the widespread use of politically incorrect language and images, the ephemerality of its content and its generally negative reputation. 4chan is a “image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images” related to a subject (4chan FAQ). When many hear 4chan, what often comes to mind is a dangerous website full of malicious internet trolls and hackers. While its undeniable that malicious internet trolls and hackers do frequent the site, journalists including those from Fox News, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and so on, assume an association between 4chan headline events and the general 4chan population (Dewey 2014; Fox 2009; Smith 2008). This ‘dangerous place’ has created or popularized numerous memes, or cultural genes, that many enjoy, such as Advice Animals, LolCats and RickRolling (Dawkins 1990; Smith 2008). The purpose of this paper is to expand the understanding of 4chan's culture and examine the usefulness of the moe anthropormophizations (a cute personification of a non-human thing) of 4chan’s boards, the Board-tans, to understanding each board’s culture and 4chan’s larger culture. The paper aims to shed light on the often misinterpreted internet cultural juggernaut that is 4chan.org, specifically identifying aspects about its cultural identity, and methods of communication.