Date of Award

Summer 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Josh Boyd

Committee Chair

Josh Boyd

Committee Member 1

Patrice Buzzanell

Committee Member 2

Sorin Matei


The concepts of online identity and online community within the context of social media have been major research interests in the field of communication in recent years. Questions of interest include how the Internet and social media contribute to the construction of identity both online and offline, and what factors encourage participation in and contribution to online communities. This thesis will address these questions related to online identity and community from a rhetorical perspective to examine the role rhetoric plays in these processes and build on the application of rhetorical approaches to online contexts. Specifically, this project proposes a rhetorical analysis of the online community of Reddit, which encourages its users to submit and vote on content that is valued by the overall community. The analysis will focus on the use of identification and constitutive rhetoric in both the communication Reddit provides about itself and the everyday communication of its members. Overall, this thesis argues that identification and constitutive rhetoric create a strong collective identity within the community that contributes to the loyalty and commitment of its members, but also constrains its members' behavior within the community in ways that are consistent with this identity, which ultimately may create challenges to the community's continued success. However, this thesis also finds evidence of dissent from some of Reddit's established guidelines, which creates tension between those who adhere to Reddit's unified, constituted identity and those who choose to ignore or deviate from it.