Author

Kenneth Root

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Kevin Brock

Abstract

Over the last ten years social media has emerged as a major space for political discussion and the dissemination of information. On open platforms such Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, algorithms personalize each user’s experience and tailor the posts they see to their specific interests and tastes. What this eventually leads to are echo chambers or discursive enclaves centered around anything from history to mental illness to extreme political ideologies. Within these enclaves, users almost exclusively see and interact with content that aligns with their group’s interest, and in the case of political enclaves this can and does lead to further radicalization and a distancing from productive discourse. While productive discourse is difficult in these situations, it is not impossible. In the following thesis, I demonstrate my attempt to take an active role in examining these unique discursive spaces that are forming to develop a method for both observing and circulating constructive content within such a space. In particular, I will be detailing my experience participating and circulating content within a leftist political enclave that has formed on TikTok, a video sharing platform similar to Twitter but instead of brief text-based posts, users share and interact with brief, 1–3-minute video clips. In order to perform this task, I created my own TikTok account geared towards sharing clips from scholarly lectures given by influential leftist scholars. Lengthy and complex lectures were broken down by individual argument and circulated online within the existing leftist community on TikTok. The overarching goal of the project was to create a space within an already existing online community where productive content can be shared and productive conversations can be had. The thesis begins as a semi-autoethnographic account of the development of the digital media experiment in order to demonstrate how the methods of such a project developed through my personal experience on social media. Following the introduction is a description of the theory that guides the background of the project and finally I conclude with the results of the project.

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