Patrick Thomas, Ph.D.
This thesis project examines evidence use and participatory dynamics in political conversations on the social networking site Reddit.com. Reddit.com is a network of user-created, interest-based forums in which users, or Redditors, engage in discourse with others about any topic of their interest. I selected the politically-motivated forum, or subreddit, r/PoliticalDiscussion for examination and collected 1,000 of its most recent conversations, or threads, to compose a data corpus. I read, categorized, and analyzed these conversations in terms of how Redditors participated in the subreddit and how they incorporated evidence into their discussions of politics. Two rounds of qualitative data coding revealed that participatory dynamics in r/PoliticalDiscussion are brief and time-bound; contributors participate through writing primarily in moments of relevance or topical interest. Furthermore, acceptable standards for discourse and evidence use in this subreddit rely on acknowledgement and adherence to general guidelines, efforts to maintain empathy and civility, and the self-policing of digital content by contributors and moderators. These results lend support to the idea that knowledge-legitimation and credibility are group-specific components of everyday argumentation online.
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English Language and Literature
Leverich, Diane, "Evidence in Online Political Discourse: How Everyday Citizens Argue about Politics on Social Media" (2018). Honors Theses. 169.