A Comparative Content Analysis of Social Identity Cues within a White Supremacist Discussion Board and a Social Activist Discussion Board
Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1984) suggests individuals strive to achieve or maintain a positive social identity. During face-to-face encounters our observations of other interactants influence our perceptions of the interaction. In computer-mediated contexts, these “cues” to understanding interactions are not as readily available. There are a vast number of cyber communities that rely solely upon CMC as a means of maintaining contact with one another and recruiting new members (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004). This study considers cues to individual group membership imbedded within the language dynamics of two such cyber communities. A white supremacist recording label discussion board and a punk rock recording label (control group) are examined. The study employs three separate content analyses which include analysis of the content from the discussion topics, discussion threads, and screen names of the respective discussion boards. Results of the three analyses suggest that cues are embedded within the language dynamics of discussion groups and the screen names of discussion board members. These cues seem to function as one of many as members attempt to situate their membership within online groups. Limitations included the complexity of language dynamics and generalizability of findings to other CMC modalities.
Keywords: Computer Mediated Communication, White Supremacist, Social Identity Theory, Communication Accomodation Theory
Dr. Scott Crabill
Director of Integrative Studies, Bachelor of Integrative Studies, Oakland University