smsociety14 has ended
Saturday, September 27 • 14:56 - 15:15
"You 'have flabby arms, fat legs, and a gross ass': A look at social ties and online discourse"

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule and see who's attending!

Background: The analysis of online social interactions provides an insight to how online discourse functions across different social media platforms and in different online social situations. A critique of online rational-critical debate (as first defined by Jürgen Habermas) and the psychological concept of innergroup and outergroup social ties provide the basis for the analysis of what is termed unconstructive discourse.

Objective: This paper shows, through a case study of body policing discourse, the importance of understanding negative or unconstructive online discourse. Unconstructive discourse is any type of communication that does not contribute to the overall health, vitality, and/or well being of a public or counterpublic. More specifically, this paper focuses on the specific type of unconstructive discourse that takes place in online spaces and the reasons behind that type of discourse. The purpose here is to show that the type of discourse users of social media practice with other users is dependent upon the type of social bonds one user assumes to have with another.

Methods: A case study of discourse regarding body policing of a plus size fashion blogger—who had the audacity to post pictures from her swimsuit photo shoot—across two forms of social media was selected in order to examine ways in which unconstructive discourse takes place. The psychological concepts of inner- and outergroup ties were applied to the relationships between users engaging in discourse in order to categorize the social interactions. Additionally, the management of different types of social media was considered in order to establish how that might affect unconstructive discourse.

Results: Analysis showed that unconstructive discourse was more likely to happen when users perceived weaker social ties (outergroup). Whereas when social ties were thought to be stronger, or a continuous personal relationship was assumed (innergroup), discourse was largely positive or constructive in nature.

Conclusions:  In order to better understand constructive discourse (its purposes and how it is effectively used), it becomes necessary to understand unconstructive discourse and its purposes. Analysis shows that one aspect of online interaction that fosters unconstructive discourse is the decreased accountability for outergroup interactivity. This knowledge may provide insights on how to subvert, manage, and redirect unconstructive discourse in online spaces.

Habermas, J. (1989). The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. (T. Burger & F. Lawrence, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. (Original work published 1962            

avatar for Abigail Oakley

Abigail Oakley

Arizona State University, United States of America
Rhet/comp scholar and feminist living in the desert and trying not to dry up. Thinks about gender, teaching, and life in digital spaces. Watches too many YouTube videos.

Saturday September 27, 2014 14:56 - 15:15
TRS 1-147 Ted Rogers School of Management

Attendees (0)