User unknown: 4chan, anonymity and contingency


  • Lee Knuttila York University



4chan, anonymity, memes, anonymous, trolling, internet culture


Both horrifying and fascinating, ( is a wildly popular message board with a highly dedicated community of users. Compared to social media’s increasing push to persistent identity online, 4chan maintains a culture of anonymity. Focusing on the ontological encounter spawned by the site, this paper argues that the interface embodies contingency and senses of alterity in several uniquely virtual ways. It concludes by articulating how this online mode of being holds promise beyond the often repugnant content generated by the site.

Author Biography

Lee Knuttila, York University

Lee Knuttila is enrolled in York University?s Cinema and Media Studies Ph.D. program. His dissertation focuses on memetic culture, anonymity and aesthetics in online communities and surf clubs. Other areas of interest include game studies, Jacques Rancière, digital filmmaking and the pedagogical potential of networked technologies. E?mail: Knuttila [at] yorku [dot] ca




How to Cite

Knuttila, L. (2011). User unknown: 4chan, anonymity and contingency. First Monday, 16(10).