Power, Metaphor, and the Closing of a Social Networking Site

Andrew Herrmann


This project expands root-metaphor analysis by examining the closure of a once popular social networking site, advancing critical interrogation of ownership vs. the idea of online spaces as “communities.” Yahoo! 360° participants used private sphere root-metaphors of home, family, and community constituting a space of intimacy, camaraderie, and care. The closing exposed previously unseen power differentials between participants and Yahoo! Participants reacted by using the metaphor of war and violence to frame the actions of Yahoo!


social networking; community; conflict; metaphor

Full Text:



Adegoke, Y. (2011, February 25). News Corp has kicked off the process to explore the sale or spin-off of its troubled social entertainment site, Myspace. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/25/us-myspace-idUSTRE71O00920110225

Arman, R. (2014). Death metaphors and factory closure. Culture and Organization 2, 23-39. doi: 10.1080/14759551.2013.851679

Amernic, J., Craig, R., & Tourish, D. (2007). The transformational leader as pedagogue, physician, architect, commander, and saint: Five root metaphors in Jack Welch’s letters to stockholders of General Electric. Human Relations, 60, 1839-1872. doi: 10.1177/0018726707084916

Ashcraft, K. L., & Flores, L. A. (2000). “Slaves with white collars”: Persistent performances of masculinity in crisis. Text and Performance Quarterly, 23, 1-29. doi:10.1080/10462930310001602020

Ashcraft, K. L., & Mumby, D. K. (2004). Reworking gender: A feminist communicology of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Baym, N. K. (1999). Tune in, log on: Soaps, fandom, and online community. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Baym, N. K. (2009). A call for grounding in the face of blurred boundaries. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14, 720-723. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01461.x

Beer, D. (2008). Social network(ing) sites... revisiting the story so far: A response to danah boyd and Nicole Ellison. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 516-529. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2008.00408.x

Benbasat, I., Gefen, D., & Pavlou, P. A. (2010). Introduction to the special issue on novel perspectives on trust in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 34, 367-371. Retrieved from http://www.misq.org/misq/downloads/download/editorial/518

Calka, M. (2015). Polymediation: the relationship between self and media. In A. Herbig, A. F. Herrmann, & A. W. Tyma (Eds.), Beyond new media: Discourse and critique in a polymediated age (pp. 15-30). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Caren, N., Jowers, K., & Gaby, S. (2012). A social movement online community: Stormfront and the white nationalist movement. Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, 33, 163-193.

Chan, S. P. (2011, February 23). Classmates.com, Seattle's original and oldest social network, is changing face. Seattle Times. Retrieved from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2014314039_memorylane24.html

Charmaz, K. (2003). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In Holstein, J. & J. Gubrium (Eds.), Inside interviewing: New lenses, new concerns, (pp. 311-330). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Chawki, M., Darwish, A., Khan, M. A., & Tyagi, S. (2015). Sexual harassment in cyberworld. In Cybercrime, Digital Forensics and Jurisdiction (pp. 65-78). New York, NY: Springer International Publishing.

Connelly, P. (2009, September 3). The life and death of online communities: How online communities are born -- and what happens when they die. The American Prospect. Retrieved from http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=neo_cities

Cooper, A. (1995, June). The myth of metaphor. Visual Basic Programmer’s Journal, 3, 127-128.

Cooper, C. (2007, June 18). Perspective: Yahoo blows its big chance. CNET News. Retrieved from http://news.cnet.com/2010-1030_3-6191778.html

Cothrel, J. P. (2000). Measuring the success of an online community. Strategy & Leadership, 28, 17-21. doi: 10.1108/10878570010341609

Dahlberg, L. (2005a). The corporate colonization of online attention and the marginalization of critical communication? Journal of Communication Inquiry, 29, 160-180. doi: 10.1177/0196859904272745

Dahlberg, L. (2005b). The Internet as public sphere or culture industry? From pessimism to hope and back. International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, 1, 93–96. doi: 10.1386/macp.1.1.93/3

Davis, B., & Brewer, J. (1997). Electronic discourse: Linguistic individuals in virtual space. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Deetz, S. A. (1992). Democracy in an age of corporate colonization: Developments in communication and the politics of everyday life. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Deetz, S., & Mumby, D. (1985). Metaphors, information, and power. In B. D. Ruben (Ed.), Information and behavior (pp. 369-392). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Dugdale, A. (2010, June 7). Facebook on Pulse: Yahoo goes social. Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/1657237/yahoo-facebook-social-media-homepage

Elster, J. (1986). Introduction. In J. Elster (ed.), Rational Choice. New York, NY: NYU Press.

Farrell, T. B., & Goodnight, G. T. (1981). Accidental rhetoric: the root metaphors of Three Mile Island. Communication Monographs, 48(4), 271-300. doi: 10.1080/03637758109376063

Fernback, J. (2007). Beyond the diluted community concept: a symbolic interactionist perspective on online social relations. New Media and Society, 1, 49–69. doi: 10.1177/1461444807072417

Friedman, M. (1970, September 13). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.palacios-huerta.com/docs/Friedman's%20Social%20Responsibility.pdf

Glaser, B. G, & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York, NY: Aldine De Gruyter.

Golden, A. G., & Geisler, C. (2007). Work–life boundary management and the personal digital assistant. Human Relations 60, 519-551. doi: 10.1177/0018726707076698

Goldman, D. (2010, June 17). AOL sells Bebo for scrap - and a $275 million tax break. CNNMoney. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2010/06/17/technology/aol_bebo/index.htm

Gonsalves, A. (2006, December 6). Post-shakeup, Yahoo needs to focus on products. InformationWeek. Retrieved from http://www.informationweek.com/news/internet/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=196602124

Gotved, S. (2006). Time and space in cyber social reality. New Media & Society, 8, 467-486. doi:10.1177/1461444806064484

Gozzi, R. (2006). Google. ETC: a review of general semantics, 63, 444-446. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6405/is_4_63/ai_n29298357/

Graham, T., & Wright, S. (2014). Discursive equality and everyday talk online: The impact of “Superparticipants.” Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 19, 625-642. doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12016

Grant, D., Hardy, C., Oswick, C., & Putnam, L. (Eds.) (2004). The Sage handbook of organizational discourse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Heirman, W., & Walrave, M. (2008). Assessing concerns and issues about the mediation of technology in cyberbullying. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2. Retrieved from http://cyberpsychology.eu/view.php?cisloclanku=2008111401&article=1

Herring, S. C. (1993). Gender and democracy in computer-mediated communication. Electronic Journal of Communication, 3 (2). Retrieved December 30, 2006 from http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/ejc.txt

Herrmann, A. (2007a). “People get emotional about their money:” Performing masculinity in a financial discussion board. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, article 12. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00335.x

Herrmann, A. (2007b). Stockholders in cyberspace: Weick's sensemaking online. Journal of Business Communication, 44, 13-35. doi:10.1177/0021943606295778

Herrmann, A. F. (2011a). “Losing things was nothing new”: A family’s story of foreclosure. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 16, 497-510. doi: 10.1080/15325024.2011.576982

Herrmann, A. F. (2011b). Narrative as an organizing process: Identity and story in a new nonprofit. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, 6, 246-264. doi: 10.1108/17465641111188411

Herrmann, A. F. (2014). Ghosts, vampires, zombies, and us: The undead as autoethnographic bridges. International Review of Qualitative Research, 7, 327-341.

Herrmann, A. F. (2015). Communicating, sensemaking, and (dis)organizing: Theorizing the complexity of polymediation. In A. Herbig, A. F. Herrmann, & A. W. Tyma (Eds.), Beyond new media: Discourse and critique in a polymediated age (pp. 61-82). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Herrmann, A. F. (in press). Working more and communicating less in information technology: Reframing the EVLN via relational dialectics. In L. Turner, N. P. Short, A. Grant, & T. E. Adams (Eds.), International perspectives on autoethnographic research and practice. New York, NY: Routledge.

Houran, J. (2006, February). Yes Virginia...there really is online "dating." Online Dating Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.onlinedatingmagazine.com/columns/2006editorials/02-onlinedating.html

Hughey, M. W., & Daniels, J. (2013). Racist comments at online news sites: a methodological dilemma for discourse analysis. Media, Culture & Society, 35, 332-347.

Huffaker, D. (2010). Dimensions of leadership and social influence in online communities. Human Communication Research, 36, 593-617. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2010.01390.x

Jones, G. (1995). Leaving home. Buckingham, England: Open University Press.

Jones, S. (1997). Virtual cultures: Identity and communication in cyberspace. London, UK: Sage.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53, 59-68. doi: org/10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Kendall, L. (2000). "OH NO! I'M A NERD!" Hegemonic masculinity on an online forum. Gender & Society, 14, 256-274. doi:10.1177/089124300014002003

Koch, S., & Deetz, S. (1981). Metaphor analysis of social reality in organizations. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 9, 1-15.

Kwan, G. C. E., & Skoric, M. M. (2013). Facebook bullying: An extension of battles in school. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 16-25. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.07.014

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1995). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Lapidot-Lefler, N., & Barak, A. (2012). Effects of anonymity, invisibility, and lack of eye-contact on toxic online disinhibition. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 434-443. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.10.014

Lawson, S. (2012). Putting the “war” in cyberwar: Metaphor, analogy, and cybersecurity discourse in the United States. First Monday, 17. doi:10.5210/fm.v17i7.3848 Retreived from: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3848/3270

Lawson, S. (2013). Beyond cyber-doom: Assessing the limits of hypothetical scenarios in the framing of cyber-threats. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 10, 86-103. doi: 10.1080/19331681.2012.759059

Li, C. (2005, March 25). First look at Yahoo! 360. Empowered. Retrieved from http://forrester.typepad.com/groundswell/2005/03/first_look_at_y.html

Lindlof, T.R, & Taylor, B. C. (2002). Qualitative communication research methods, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Linstead, S. A., & Maréchal, G. (2015). Re-reading masculine organization: Phallic, testicular and seminal metaphors. Human Relations, 69, 1-27. doi: 10.1177/0018726714558146

McSweeney, B. (2007). The pursuit of maximum shareholder value: Vampire or Viagra? Accounting Forum, 31, 325-331.

Menga, R, (2011, May 30). Yahoo! To discontinue blogs, photos, and guestbook in Pulse. PC Mech. Retrieved from: http://www.pcmech.com/article/yahoo-to-discontinue-blogs-photos-and-guestbook-in-pulse

Mills, E. (2007, June 20). Analysts: Yahoo lags in social media. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/cnet/2007-06-20-yahoo-social-media_N.htm

Miltner, K. M. (2014). “There’s no place for lulz on LOLCats”: The role of genre, gender, and group identity in the interpretation and enjoyment of an Internet meme. First Monday, 19(8). doi: 10.5210/fm.v19i8.5391. http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5391/4103

Morgan, G. (1986). Images of organization. London, UK: Sage.

Monge, P., & Poole, M. S. (2008). The evolution of organizational communication. Journal of Communication, 58, 679-692. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2008.00408.x

Norman, D. A. (2006). Words matter. talk about people: not customers, not consumers, not users. interactions 13, 49-63. doi: 10.1145/1151314.1151340

Oldenburg, R. (1999). The great good place: Cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, bars, hair salons and other hangouts at the heart of a community. New York, NY: Marlowe.

Olds, L. E. (1992). Metaphors of interrelatedness. New York, NY: SUNY Press.

Park, S. B., & Chung, N. (2011). Mediating roles of self-presentation desire in online game community commitment and trust behavior of Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 2372-2379.

Perez, J. C. (2009, June). Yahoo sets date for shutting down 360 social network. TechWorld. Retrieved from http://www.techworld.com.au/article/305167/yahoo_sets_date_shutting_down_360_social_network

Powers, J. (2014). Femininity, pinterest, and the appropriation of Jane Austen. Unpublished thesis. East Tennesee State University, Johnson City, TN. Available at: http://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3729&context=etd

Puschmann, C., & Burgess, J. (2014). Big Data, Big Questions| Metaphors of Big Data. International Journal of Communication, 8, 1690–1709.

Rao, L. (2009, May). The walking dead: Yahoo 360 officially closes, again. TechCrunch. Retrieved from http://techcrunch.com/2009/05/29/the-walking-dead-yahoo-360-officially-closes-again

Ren, Y., Kraut, R., & Kiesler, S. (2007). Applying common identity and bond theory to design of online communities. Organization Studies, 28, 377-408. doi: 10.1177/0170840607076007

Rice, R., & Love, G. (1987). Electronic emotion: Socioemotional content in a computer-mediated communication network. Communication Research, 14, 85–108.

Richards, D. S. (2001). Talking sense: Ethnomethodology, postmodernism and practical action. In R. Westwood & S. Linstead (Eds.), The language of organization (pp. 20–46), London, UK: Sage.

Rodgers, R. F., Skowron, S., & Chabrol, H. (2012). Disordered eating and group membership among members of a pro‐anorexic online community. European Eating Disorders Review, 20, 9-12.

Schonfeld, E. (2007, October 23). Yang decides to shut down Yahoo 360. Nobody notices. Techcrunch. Retrieved from http://techcrunch.com/2007/10/23/yang-decides-to-shut-down-yahoo-360—nobody-notices

Shuaib, J. (2009, January 1). What Yahoo must do to survive. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/what_yahoo_must_do_to_survive.php

Singer, J. B. (2014). User-generated visibility: Secondary gatekeeping in a shared media space. New Media & Society, 16, 55-73.

Smith, R. C., & Eisenberg, E. M. (1987). Conflict at Disneyland: A root metaphor analysis. Communication Monographs, 54, 367-380. doi:10.1080/03637758709390239

Soukup, C. (2006). Computer-mediated communication as a virtual third place: building Oldenberg’s great good places on the world wide web. New Media & Society, 8, 421-440. doi: 10.1177/1461444806061953

Spears, R., & Lea, M. (1994). Panacea or panopticon? The hidden power in computer-mediated communication. Communication Research, 21 (4), 427-459.

Steinkuehler, C., & Williams, D. (2006). Where everybody knows your (screen) name: Online games as "third places." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, article 1. Retrieved from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue4/steinkuehler.html

Talukdar, D., & Gauri, D. K. (2011). Home Internet access and usage in the USA: Trends in the socio-economic digital divide. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 28, Article 7. Retrieved from http://aisel.aisnet.org/cais/vol28/iss1/7

Tourish, D., & Hargie, O. (2012). Metaphors of failure and the failures of metaphor: A critical study of root metaphors used by bankers in explaining the banking crisis. Organization Studies, 33, 1045-1069.

Tyma, A. W. (2015). I am you and you are we and we are all…me? Understanding Media and/as Context (The Road to Polymediation). In In A. Herbig, A. F. Herrmann, & A. W. Tyma (Eds.), Beyond new media: Discourse and critique in a polymediated age (pp. 1-14). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Tyma, A. W, Herrmann, A. F., & Herbig, A. (2015). The beginnings: #WeNeedaWord. In A. Herbig, A. F. Herrmann, & A. W. Tyma (Eds.), Beyond new media: Discourse and critique in a polymediated age (pp. x-xxii). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Wiertz, C., & de Ruyter, K. (2007). Beyond the call of duty: why customers contribute to firm-hosted commercial online communities. Organization Studies, 28, 347-376. Doi: 10.1177/0170840607076003

Wilken, R. (2013). An exploratory comparative analysis of the use of metaphors in writing on the Internet and mobile phones. Social Semiotics, 23, 632–647. doi:10.1080/10350330.2012.738999

Williams, R. L., & Cothrel, J. P. (2000). Four smart ways to run online communities. Sloan Management Review, 41, 81-91.

Wright, S. (2012). From “third place” to “third space”: Everyday political talk in non-political online spaces. javnost-the public, 19, 5-20.

Wyatt, S. (2004). Danger! Metaphors at work in economics, geophysiology, and the Internet. Science, Technology & Human Values, 29(2), 242-261.

Yuan, E. J. (2013). A culturalist critique of ‘online community’ in new media studies. New Media & Society, 15(5), 665-679.

Zhou, T. (2011). Understanding online community user participation: a social influence perspective. Internet Research, 21, 67-81. doi: 10.1108/10662241111104884


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, USA, The Journal of Social Media in Society is sponsored by the Colleges of Liberal and Fine Arts, Education, Business Administration, and Graduate Studies.