A Rhetoric of Visual Humor on Facebook

A Rhetoric of Visual Humor on Facebook

Wincharles Coker (Michigan Technological University, USA) and Stephen Kwame Dadugblor (Michigan Technological University, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0338-5.ch006
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Abstract

A decade ago, Susan C. Herring (2004) urged scholars to study discoursal patterns of computer-mediated communications and not simply their microlinguistic features. This chapter contributes to the literature by examining the rhetoric of visual humor on Facebook. The purpose of the study is two-fold: (a) to develop a conceptual framework for understanding uses of humor on Facebook, and (b) to show that humorous texts on this social networking site are argumentative in focus. Using ideas from Aristotelian rhetoric, Barthian semiotics, and Saidian discourse analysis, the work contends that Facebook visual humor tends to perform four main functions. They can be gubernatorial, institutional, cultural, or grotesque, and often ridicule societal problems in either overt or covert ways. The findings are useful for developing a conceptual framework for studying the complexities of human culture in digital spaces.
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Study Method And Data

The methodology employed in this study was interpretive netnography. The authors’ idea of interpretive research was informed by Denzin and Lincoln’s (2011) four principles of interpretive work. According to them, interpretive research must, first and foremost, be a blueprint for cultural criticism since no cultural practices are hardly neutral. In this context, one may say that humorous visual texts on Facebook are often shaped by the worldviews, biases, and interests of its users. Second, the work should articulate cultural and political issues. This means that interpretive research does its work best when it is capable of bringing to light hidden ideologies. The third point, Denzin and Lincoln posit, is that interpretive analysis should inspire hope; it must critique how things are, and then go on to explore how they could be different. Finally, this type of research must be an emancipatory project for bringing about positive change.

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