Dear Gabriella Coleman,
Your article Anonymous: From the Lulz to Collective Action was quite interesting to read. Before reading this article, I had never heard of the group Anonymous. I find it very interesting that such a huge force started from trolling (pranks). Anonymous ‘s first major prank against the Church of Scientology proved to be a huge success. The action against the Church began on January 15th. By February 10th over six thousand people protested the church around the world. It is interesting that many protestors first started “for the sake of the lulz, picking on a target that geeks love to hate”. However some continued to protest because they began to personally disagree with the Church of Scientology. More traditional protests proceeded in conjunction with the Anonymous protests. I believe this happened because other people that did not approve of the Church of Scientology began to join the remaining Anonymous protesters.
Operation Payback and Wikileaks was organized by a different group of people. It is interesting that such a large amount of people that were geographically dispersed were able to engage in a collaborative scheme and take down the websites of some of the most powerful corporations for a few days.
Operation Tunisia was very different from the other protests. I do not see where Anonymous could have gotten any lulz from this activism for human rights. They provided the protestors with packets of information on how to avoid government surveillance and prompted people to get to the streets and protest. In my opinion, this protest was very unusual for the members of Anonymous to engage in.
The sense of community and agreement between people that have never formally met is quite astonishing. Anonymous started with the only commonality between the people being the goal of lulz, which is very general. However the movement does prove to have a stable interest in censorship, information freedom and anonymous speech. I believe many people participate in this group since there are several small protest opportunities. It is surprising that the Internet Relay Chats that they use are open to the public and are not difficult to operate but the government has not found a way to shut down these hackers.
Although there is no formal hierarchy, the IRC operators have more power than the common user but they are not seen as a leader. Anonymous has a lot of anti-leader and anti-celebrity norms. If a person is acting like a leader or seeking personal attention, they can be banished from the network. I personally know that working in any group without some type of formal or informal leader can be very tough. When there is no central point for major decision and information, it can be very confusing and tough. So it is surprising to me that anonymous has been able to work so efficiently without any formal leaders/ hierarchy.
A group that begun with the mission was to provoke lulz has become an opportunity to develop collective action against major entities.