TRACKING THE PILLING PIPELINE: LIMITATIONS, CHALLENGES AND A CALL FOR NEW METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORKS IN INCEL AND MANOSPHERE RESEARCH
Keywords:manosphere, incels, radicalisation, pilling, alt-right
The manosphere is an online network of disparate formations, which are united in their antipathy toward feminism, their reliance on evolutionary psychology and their belief that Western civilization is under threat. In recent years, a growing body of scholarship on the manosphere has emerged from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Much of this work sits within internet studies but there are also significant contributions from gender studies, social psychology and terrorism / cybersecurity studies. The purpose of this paper is to take stock of the current research, to identify methodological limitations, and to propose some new interdependent research frameworks and methods. To date, much of the work conducted on the manosphere and its various subgroups (e.g. incel) relies on gathering a dataset from one platform and subjecting it to either manual or machine analysis to identify key themes or characteristics. While this categorisation has been important, its frequent replication has led to a certain stagnation of knowledge, as we are missing the dynamic aspects of how and where ideas travel and interconnect. We call for a conceptual shift away from thinking of manosphere communities such as incel as isolated, homogenous identity groups, to conceiving of them instead as a multifaceted, ever-evolving online ecosystem. We map out a number of key pathways that need to be explored, outlining methodologies for each. Approaching the incel/manosphere as a dynamic ecosystem, we argue, will take knowledge of this phenomenon in important new directions, as well as opening up new space for inter-disciplinary collaboration.