Hateful online youth sociality: ExOC (Extreme Online Content)

The project explores the ways in which young people create and share hateful, extreme memes online. It consists of three sub-projects centred around group formation and the creation of meaning, out-group transgression, and the production of a new theory of digital transgression.

ExOC will examine how young people navigate the socio-technical affordances of online social media platforms to create and share hateful content in the form of memes, and the microsociological interactions that ensue within and across groups.

This will involve a netnographic approach consisting of data scraping from and observations of open and closed message threads and group communications where the sharing of hateful memes takes place.

(Photo: Colourbox)


Subproject 1 will focus on the production of memes by young people, and how this relates to group formation. It will answer the sub-research questions:

What role do extreme memes play in establishing meaning, moulding behaviour, and upholding idiocultures? And how do they affect and contribute to a potential larger subculture?

This will entail a qualitative investigation into young people’s micro-processes of engaging with extreme meme content while they co-participate simultaneously within different communities.

In the analysis of netnographic and interview data, we will employ interactionist analytical methods, with a focus on the specificities of digital social life and the symbolic meanings of meme use and production, and on the event that is generated around the meme. A ritualistic study of the digital event could reveal a form of solidarity within idiocultures. The netnography will make it possible to compare across idiocultures to determine which cultural items are localized in each particular group culture, and which are shared by multiple groups.


Subproject 2 will focus on the ways in which group members share memes outside the identified groups, addressing how interlocks between groups function in the decision to share extreme or hateful memes. It will answer the sub-research question:

What are the interactional and cognitive decision-making process involved in transgressive meme-sharing behaviour? How do transgressions take place between (as opposed to within) idiocultures in the meme ecosystem?

Observational and interview data will allow the coding of the situational, interactional, and individual components involved in the sharing behaviour. Qualitative interviews will assist in accessing the underlying cognitive processes of sharing extreme content, for example by coding and analysing subjective experiences and perceptions of sharing practices. The integration of these data sources will enable us to detect, comprehend, and map processes of decision-making in situations of transgressive behaviour between groups.

Due to differential group structures (including socio-technological factors such as anonymity or temporality) and rituals (as identified in Subproject 1), we expect various explanations and justifications for the youths’ transgressive or deviant acts within the interactional processes of meme sharing.


Subproject 3 will focus on theorization, as the project strives to develop novel microsociological theories on online interactions and group dynamics.

The first two subprojects will provide the analytical and empirical elements of in-group and between-group interactional actions necessary for a theory of digital transgression to be developed in subproject 3. Methodologically, this process is informed by Swedberg (2012).

The aim is to deliver a theory that has the necessary abstraction to be in dialogue with theories in sociology and psychology such as online disinhibition effect theory (Suler, 2004) and digital drift theory (Goldsmith and Brewer, 2015). Keith Hayward’s theoretical work on ‘cultural criminology’ and (advisory board member) Anastasia Powell’s work on digital crime in relation to gender will inform the process.




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Jakob Johan Demant Associate Professor +4535321584 E-mail

Funded by:

Hateful online youth sociality: ExOC (Extreme Online Content) has received funding from Independent Research Fund Denmark/ Danmarks Frie Forskningsfond

Project: Hateful online youth sociality: ExOC (Extreme Online Content)
Period:  2023-2026


Jakob Demant
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Email: jd@soc.ku.dk
Telephone: +45 35 32 15 84