Overlapping Online and Offline Spacetimes: Heterotopia, Memes, and Hashtags

Brennan, Kathleen
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2016]
My doctoral project, “Overlapping Online and Offline Spacetimes: Heterotopia, Memes, and Hashtags,” examined the interrelation of digital and analog spacetimes in generating global attention. The debate on the way and speed at which information spreads online, and its ability to create global attention, has raged in many fields. Within political science, scholars such as Bruce Bimber and Caroline J. Tolbert have explored the role of the Internet in political engagement and action. Within anthropology, scholars like Gabriella Coleman have focused on specific online activist groups and their use of digital tools to spread political ideas. Despite much excellent work on themes such as the explanatory power of Big Data in electoral politics and focused ethnographic work on groups like Anonymous, scholars examining the politics of the Internet have yet to adequately account for the importance of the emergent interactions of online and offline spaces and the actors, like Internet memes, which develop out of the times and spaces in which online and offline spaces overlap. Without such an understanding we are left with inadequate analyses that create the conditions for confused theories about the Internet as a technology of social change and a self-sustaining cycle of misunderstanding about how online and offline spaces intersect. Using a textual analysis of novels, short stories, and Internet memes, I sought to develop a horizontal model of the overlaps of online and offline worlds. I argued that online and offline worlds have fuzzy borders, and thus intersect or overlap. In these overlaps nonhuman actors, which can include anything from pieces of physical infrastructure to Internet memes, work with human actors in assemblages. For example, I examined the ways in which Internet memes like the Harlem Shake, and hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, operate in and through these overlaps creating opportunities for social change. I concluded that experiencing the diverse forms of space and time operating in online and offline worlds simultaneously in these overlaps make people aware of issues they would be unconscious of or apathetic to otherwise.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
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