Image, Race, and Rhetoric: The Contention for Visual Space on Twitter

Michael DiBari, Edgar Clayton Simpson

Abstract


This study examines photographs associated with the Twitter hashtag “ifiweregunneddown” through the lens of visual rhetoric, concluding that social media users engaged in a protest against mainstream media by using images of themselves to reassert their identity. The study examines and discusses identity within the context of photographic media portrayals of African-Americans, including the historical Emmett Till murder, in which image played a key role in the national discussion over race. Data from this study was examined through the theory of the public sphere, suggesting that societal members use information available to them to debate and determine meaning. Results found eight patterns in the photos associated with the hashtag: five were considered negative or undesirable, and three were considered positive or socially acceptable. This study also borrows theory from geography and the concept of contested space.


Keywords


Social Media; Twitter; Visual Rhetoric; Race; Public Sphere; Image and Identity; Cultural Landscape

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References


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