Media Communications Research News
Dr. Bradley E. Wiggins, Head of the Media Communications Department
Associate Professor and Department Head of Media Communications, Dr. Wiggins was recently invited to submit a revision to an article for New Media & Society, currently ranked as the top journal in the field of media and communication, with an impact factor at 4.8. The reviews were very positive, and Dr. Wiggins plans on submitting the revision by the end of April, though he was given until May 25 to submit the revised article. The title of the article is "Boogaloo and Civil War 2: Memetic Antagonism in Expressions of Covert Activism". While this by no means suggests a definite acceptance, given how competitive the journal is, it is an honor to come this far.
Internet memes are remixed images, videos, GIFs, hashtags, and similar content that usually incorporates humor but also some form of political or cultural critique (Milner, 2012; Shifman, 2014; Wiggins and Bowers, 2014). Several studies have previously examined the ways in which minority groups curate internet memes for the purpose of protest or other forms of activism (Frazer and Carlson, 2017; Lenhardt, 2016). This paper examines user-generated tweets including any of the following hashtags: boogaloo, boogaloo2020, and/or civilwar2. The time period of interest on Twitter concerns any and all images posted between 15 and 25 January 2020, exactly five days before and after a controversial gun rally held in Richmond, Virginia. Drawing on Eco’s theory of semiotics, the results from a critical discourse analysis reveal tendencies toward a preference for antagonism as a means to consolidate identity for individuals engaged in online discursive practice within hybrid structures.
Associate Professor and Department Head of Media Communications, Dr. Wiggins' full paper submission to the competitive European Communication Conference, administered by ECREA (European Communication Research and Education Association) has been accepted for presentation at the conference to be held in Braga, Portugal from October 2-5, 2020. The title of the paper is "I'm Coming Out": Patterns and Themes of Using TikTok as a Social Platform for Coming Out.
Coming out represents both an effort to communicate and to identify one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity but also serves as a metaphor for the LGBTQ+ community and its struggles over time. It was perhaps first with Facebook’s Celebrate Pride page that started on June 26, 2015, and the addition of an option to react to a post with a pride flag button, which saw a high volume of individuals using the platform to come out (Wiggins, 2019). Incidentally, the date of the Facebook launch coincided with the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court ruling of the same date (effectively legalizing same-sex marriage). As a consequence of the ruling, the incidence of Facebook users coming out on the social media platform increased alongside demonstrations of support for the ruling and its implications for social and cultural relations (State & Wernerfelt, 2015). This contribution examines the seemingly emerging and the viral new genre of coming out videos as well as general supportive commentary directed at the larger LGBTQ+ community. Originally launched in September 2016, TikTok has emerged as one of the fastest-growing social apps in recent years with approximately 500+ million active monthly users and 1.5 billion downloads into 2019. Its users gravitate toward the younger end of the spectrum with approximately 41% in the range between 16 and 24, with daily average use of about 52 minutes, and the app’s availability in at least 155 countries (Mohsin, 2019). Zuo and Wang (2019) note that most users tend to fall into one of three groups of popular culture: producers, disseminators, or consumers. One of TikTok’s main advantages over other visually-heavy mediums may be due to its emphasis on “people, highlighting the desire of contemporary young people to express themselves, helping them realize their personal values and enhance their creativity” (Yang, Zhao, & Ma, 2019, p. 341). Through a quantitative content analysis of a select sample of TikTok videos and/or user profiles, this study will demonstrate patterns of coming out on the platform as well as the uses and gratifications implied in that action. Further, this contribution aims to use qualitative discourse analysis to identify themes of solidarity, support, expressions of anxiety, worry, etc. in the coming out and related videos collected for the study.