Michelle’s dissertation explores the ethical lives of young people who credit the social media platform, Tumblr, with shaping their beliefs about what it means to be and do good in the world. It integrates ethnography with large-scale text analytics to investigate how these young people come to take up and enact new political and moral commitments through creative linguistic practices. Her research builds on linguistic anthropological theories that form is not merely a container for content; linguistic style can invoke meanings and sentiments that far exceed referential content. Consequently, rather than eliminating the ‘noise’ of capitalization, punctuation, and other non-lexical features, as is common in computational text analytics, this project places variations in orthography and typography at the center of analysis. The project ultimately aims to develop and utilize digital tools that will chart changes in the stylistic features of popular blog posts alongside changes in research participants’ political-ethical stances.
Stylistic Variation In Online Political Discourse