A Content Analysis of Social Identity Cues within the Online Discussions of a White Supremacist Discussion Board

By Scott Crabill.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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 a content analysis of the online discussions of the respective discussion boards.
Content from the discussion text of the top 20 subject threads from each discussion board were collected, a total of 226,450 words were analysed using the computer aided content analysis program Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC). Results of analysis supported both of the studies hypotheses, as the white supremacist group more frequently used first person plural pronouns (We) within their discussions compared to the control group, and the control group more frequently used first person singular pronouns (I) compared to the white supremacist group.
Results of the analysis suggest that cues are embedded within the frequency of word choice of online discussion groups. 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

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.57-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 610.088KB).

Dr. Scott Crabill

Director of Integrative Studies, Bachelor of Integrative Studies, Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA

Scott L. Crabill (Ph.D., Wayne State University) is the director of the Integrative Studies program and special instructor of communication. He has taught courses in public speaking, group dynamics, listening in communication, interpersonal communication, and advanced interpersonal communication. Computer-mediated communication and interpersonal communication are his primary areas of study with a mixed methodological focus. He researches white supremacist groups within computer-mediated contexts. His primary area of research is concerned with the language dynamics of white supremacist groups within computer-mediated contexts, such as chat rooms and discussion boards, specifically focusing on how members of a white supremacist discussion board monitor and construct a social identity within their online discussions.

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