Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Michele Jackson

Second Advisor

Karen Tracy

Third Advisor

David Boromisza-Habashi


This thesis interrogates the normative meanings of traditional activism versus new, emerging online forms of activism by considering how "activism" and "activist" work as culturally coded folk terms in an American speech community. At the heart of this exploration is the question: How is activism communicated in the digital era? Examined is the metatalk of online commenters, who responded to a prominent American journalist's claims that the Internet served no role in social protests and revolutions in Moldova and Iran in 2009, and later in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011. Talk of these current events offer a relevant jumping off point to examine discourses of activism, and, specifically, how people describe their own positions and sense-making of activism. These modern social movements also provide an interesting backdrop against which to consider new communication processes of activism, and how they create normative challenges to traditional views of activism and the appropriate actions and roles of activists.

Included in

Communication Commons