Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Kathleen M. Ryan

Second Advisor

Leysia Palen

Third Advisor

Janice Peck

Fourth Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi

Fifth Advisor

J. Richard Stevens


This dissertation represents an in depth examination of the cultural practices, technological affordances and political economic forces that inform the publics and counterpublics formed on the website reddit. Through interpretivist netnography, textual analysis and document analysis, the research presented here establishes a variety of different events (both historical and contemporary) and discourses that have taken place on the site and shows how these events and discourses are emblematic of contemporary neoliberal ideologies. Drawing on the theoretical tradition of the “public sphere” established by Jürgen Habermas, this research concludes that reddit shows the potential for an effective public sphere through digital technology. However, despite this potential, much of the discourse on reddit reinforces traditional neoliberal ideologies; furthermore, actions on behalf of the administration, moderators and users on the sites also indicate that while reddit has afforded individuals the opportunity to change federal political policy, these events do not translate into an inclusive public sphere that escapes the neoliberal trappings of technological fetishism.