Theorizing Black Community Online: Of Black Mind, Black Self, and Black Society
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Since initial research on online chatrooms, communities, and fandoms were conducted, the study of online community has burgeoned. Still, the literature that explores racial identity as a distinguishing factor in how individuals use social media to establish, maintain, or join communities is relatively limited. The concept of community, like all of our lives, is socially constructed. Our online communities reflect this socialization process and the boundaries of that community are defined by those who identify as part of it as well as those that exist outside of the space; though the versions of those definitions may differ remarkably. Accordingly, newer communities occupy many spaces to create meaning on multiple platforms. Concerning racial inequality discourse, online community has become particularly salient to activism and organization both on- and offline. In this context, the already loosely structured on- offline binary becomes even less distinct. Thus the aim of my dissertation is to contextualize a nebulous subculture of black users, known as Black Twitter, and other racialized groups of online resistance as a community that engenders purposeful social action. By providing a qualitative evaluation of over 7,000 tweets associated with various social movements, two years of ethnographic observation, and 48 follow-up in person interviews, I offer a new theorization of social media as a multifaceted space for resistance. Findings reveal that everyday experiences in the digital realm such as communal viewing of black-produced television contribute to the negotiation of black collective identity and community in a relatively innocuous setting. The comfort afforded by the everyday negotiation of identity on social media is integral to strengthening pre-existing connections. These connections become paramount when collective action is needed. I argue that collective action (online and offline) via Black Twitter is facilitated by everyday experiences of community building and discourse on black identity that subverts the online / offline experiential divide.
Williams, Apryl Alexis (2017). Theorizing Black Community Online: Of Black Mind, Black Self, and Black Society. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from
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