Archive

Affect

The College Option: Protrayal of Upward Mobility in Tumblr and New York Times

Group 21: Bryan Austin, Jamie Christianson, Cassandra Hathaway, & Roberto Whyte

Introduction

The specific focus that we have chosen to tackle is “education” and the ways in which it has been a topic of inequality throughout the Occupy movement. While the Occupy movement has revealed many topics of inequality, we as college students are especially conscious of the ways in which it has impacted our own lives, and the lives of other college students. Our mission for this project is to further research these topics of inequality—such as the rising cost of higher education, both in financial and personal terms, and to truly understand how the experiences of college students have been portrayed throughout the Occupy movement. Students experience inequality in education through the rising costs of attaining a college education, both personally and financially; these costs are then worsened by the state of the economy which makes a college degree less valued. Our group decided to use Tumblr and New York Times to look at the topic of upward mobility in regards to inequality. We chose these forms of discourse due to their popularity and the historical significance each share as a space to gain accurate and up-to-date conversations concerning current social events. Through the study of these two discourse genres, we have found that debt is a major topic that is often intensified when discussing education, lack of job opportunities create an expression of fear and disappointment regarding the education of graduates, and an over-arching ideology that is being challenged, which will change the meaning of higher education.

Methods

Discourse analysis is the way that we study language usage, spoken, written, and visually, in an effort to make sense of the choices made by the author. Every author presents a story in a different way, using many options they have. Discourse analysis gives us tools that help us to understand lexical and grammatical choices. Some of the tools we have used to analyze this corpus are: key word counts, collocation, and concordance. Key word counts simply allow us to see how prevalent a word is within a corpus, which can be turned into a ratio to compare to other corpora. According to Svenja Adolph, our project mainly focused on “positive keywords” (words that occur significantly more than others), with my own interest falling on ‘debt’, being one of the most frequently used words (Adolph, 45). Concordance lines allow us to choose a key word and view the 5 words before and after, in order to see the context that the word falls in. Collocation tables show us the frequency in which a word occurs within 5 words of a keyword, allowing us to see patterns in representation (Sinclair, 15). The collocation was also a significant tool in our analysis of Tumblr. I also used the theory of ideology (a way of viewing social phenomena), as this was a key tool in understanding the reasoning behind the stories depicted in Tumblr. (Van Dijk, 384).

Prior to the ’99% Occupy Movement’ and student movements that are occurring throughout theUnited States, New York Times had already been dealing with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, many would agree that students did not become noticeably involved until October and November of 2011. As OWSM grew in popularity, students joined in. The social network site Tumblr began receiving personal stories from people all over the country. These stories were of the utmost importance to us, as we wanted to look comparatively at howNew York Times discusses educational inequality, versus those that actually experience it first hand. For us, the personal experiences of education (fear, failure and disappointment regarding higher education) seemed more significant than commentary by a journalist.

When we were choosing which texts to include in our corpus, we decided to only use articles from October and November of 2011, in order to capture the beginning of the movement. Since our group had two corpora, Jamie and I focused on the documents from Tumblr. We each collected 30 images with descriptions from one of the months, so that we would have a total of 60 articles. From the Tumblr corpus, the total number of words was 6141, with 1289 types of words. This corpus had a type/token ratio of 0.21. We have decided to use these parameters because we wanted to see the initial reasoning for following the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and how education was being talked about with those initial reasons.

Analysis

Student loan debt has been a major issue when discussing education on Tumblr. Most of the individuals who posted about themselves discussing education made a comment about their debt involved with this education. While a few stated that they were lucky enough to leave school debt-free, this was not the case for the majority of posters. Because debt was one of the ideas that interested me, I used concordance lines of the lemma ‘debt’ and found that an overwhelming number of individuals had used a number to express the depth of the problems they are experiencing. Of those who did have student loan debt, 23 out of the 38 excerpts involving student loans had used a concrete number to express how much debt the individual had. One individual wrote:

I have $90K in student loan debt. My payments are 20% of my income. By the time I pay off my debt, I will have paid the government double what I borrowed.

This individual had a very large amount of debt, and was very detailed by telling the audience that the payments on her loans are a major portion of her income. Stories of large amounts of student debt were not at all uncommon on Tumblr, as another individual writes:

I am a 26 year old graduate with $120,000 in student loans.

This process of using concrete numbers is intensification. These numbers allow the reader to have a better idea of how significant the amount of student loan debt. If these individuals would have simply stated that they have student loan debt, the reader would not have understood the issue to be as grave as it is.

Students who posted their stories on Tumblr have related higher education to success and power. When sharing their personal stories, though all very different, a commonality seems to be the over-all disappointment that each individual feels in their degree and/or education, themselves, the economy, and their government. People are seeing education costs rising, both personally and financially, and cannot overcome the debt they take on to achieve their goals. As we pulled excerpt after excerpt, I began seeing references to the “American Dream.” We soon became fascinated with this illusive “American Dream” and counted how many times the word “dream” appeared in our corpus. Despite having a fairly small corpus in comparison to other groups, the word “dream” still came up a total of 9 different times, with other words such as “debt” appearing 38 times. From the excerpts we pulled, combined with our knowledge of the greater ideologies at play—we began to see the connection between the “American Dream,” success, and education. These ideas were interconnected, and we couldn’t help but acknowledge how many people seemed to be basing their worth off of social ideologies regarding education as means to achieve success and the illusive “American Dream” (Van Dijk, 384). Growing up in this country, we are constantly reminded about the American Dream. The American Dream is an ideology that we can use as a lens to look at the world. We are taught that if you work hard and are educated, success will be yours. Our educational system is built upon this idea. However, the Wearethe99% Tumblr questions this ideology, with its evidence that the American Dream is a falsehood for many. Because of the debt individuals expressed, as well as the high rates of unemployment of college graduates, these individuals believe that they were told a lie. Qualitative coding allowed us to read through excerpts and identify them as having this theme regarding the American Dream, from this alongside concordance lines of ‘dream’, I was able to see that many educated people are not achieving the dream:

Now what? I feel completely misled – I was always told that if I worked hard I could have that “American Dream”. Now I’m just loaded in debt, so those degrees are worthless.

It is almost a type of moral evaluation, because the success expected through the American Dream is deeply tied to being the ideal citizen, and it calls the morals of the storytellers of the American Dream into question as well:

I was raised to believe that if I went to college and worked hard, I could get a job and a living wage. Maybe it was true once, but now the American Dream is a lie.

Another pattern we want to discuss illustrates the use of re-occurring lexical units such as “fear,” “terrified,” and “scared” when discussing the future. As gathered from Adolph, these re-occurring words are considered “positive keywords” and hold much significance (Adolph, 45). We found this pattern to be worth mentioning because of how common it was, but also because it was contradicting it was to America’s over-arching ideologies, which suggest that education will bring success and power. Though each individual presented a very different set of circumstances and context, there were common themes of a fear for the future, and a sense of helplessness for their fate, as we saw these terms appearing about 8 times combined. While we cannot assume that our analysis of these particular texts will be representative of all texts for this social event, we have begun to attribute these common feelings of fear for the future as something closely related to the theory of ideology (Van Dijk, 384). As mentioned earlier, we believe we (U.S.citizens and non-citizens a-like) are all living under larger ideologies that shape our perspectives so that we believe higher education has the ability to bring us success and power. When these connotative assumptions are wrong, or do not pay off—we become fearful for the future, and seem to experience a sense of helplessness in our own lives. As Van Dijk argues, “ideologies, thus informally defined, are general systems of basic ideas shared by the members of a social group, ideas that will influence their interpretation of social events and situations and control their discourse and other social practices as group members” (Van Dijk, 380). Perhaps then, the ideologies at play, though they may be false notions, are reinforced by society to make us think that education is our key to success. So now, when this is no longer working, our helplessness and fear for the future are accentuated when our only key to success and power (education) does not work.

In the excerpts studied, college students are very much contemplating on the value of their investment in education. Often the meaning of a clause or phrase is derived from the sum of its lexical units. John Sinclair explains in his book Contrastive Lexical Semantics “Whenever the meaning arises predominantly from textual environment rather than the item choice, it is considered to be an instance of semantic reversal” (Sinclair, 1998). When applying this process to one excerpt it becomes clear that Gan Golan is finding less value in his education investment. In another, again we see terms that show us students are very concerned about the investment and commitment required for completing a college degree and the possible risk of getting nothing back in return. In nearly the entire collection of excerpts collected from a student’s perspective, the students carry the same message education in today’s society holds less value than just a decade ago. Then you have many economists predicting that new job growth will continue to be hampered by emerging economies such as China and India and that U.S. companies will be creating more jobs in these markets rather than at home. This information continues to discourage many young adults coming out of high school to seek higher education. If we continue to apply the process of semantic reversal it becomes clear that we can now see the shift in attitudes towards higher education. What this is doing to younger Americans is placing them in the middle of social conflict. Signing up for the armed services was once a wise choice for offsetting some of the expense of getting a degree however with America involved in many conflicts around the world this option is also less appealing. Youngsters really are running out of options. It is understandable why they may begin to feel apathetic.

Conclusion

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been a topic of interest for several months, and many have entered into this discussion. Through our analysis of Tumblr, we found many personal stories, and found a lack of personal stories in the New York Times. However, both corpora showed similarities. Students experience inequality in education through the rising costs of attaining a college education, both personally and financially; these costs are then worsened by the state of the economy which makes a college degree less valued. Through the study, we have found that debt is often intensified when discussing education, lack of job opportunities creates an expression of fear and disappointment regarding the education of graduates, and the over-arching ideology of education is challenged, which will alter the meaning of higher education. Through our careful analysis, we have seen that higher education is coming to mean less and less in the job market, which will eventually cause a shift in ideology, if things continue in this manner. Students and graduates struggle with the idea that their success did not come as it was assured to us.

References

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London;New York; Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound: A practical handbook.Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Bauer. , Martin, , & Bas Aarts, (2000). Corpus construction: A principle for qualitative data collection. (Vol. 2, pp. 19-37).London: Sage.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analyzing discourse; textual analysis for social research. (pp. 87-104).London: Routledge.

Laura, V. (n.d). Grads: Pursue a realistic dream. USA Today.

Sinclair, J. (1998). Contrastive lexical semantics . (171 ed., pp. 1-24).Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Sinclair, John. “The Lexical Item.” In Contrastive Lexical Semantics. Ed. Edda Weigand.Amsterdam;Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1998. 1-24.

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. (2nd Ed.) London,UK: Sage.

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Coloring a Movement: 
Revealing Hegemony and Definition of “People of Color”
from the Perspective of POC

Photo: Raymond Haddad/BET.com

Group 3: Alvin Chang, Conor Knowles, Scott Lozano, Fumiko Nishioka, & Tzu-lin Wu

I. Introduction

Our group is focusing on the element of identity from the perspectives of People of Color (POC,) a subgroup of the 99% Movement. The obscure nature of race and differences comes into play in the self-identification of the group through social media. We specifically focus on how the movement defines the term, “color.” Having a better understanding about the definition of “color” can help us reveal the figure of hegemony hidden in our society.Texts are taken from the official blogs and micro-blogs of the POC movement. These sources reflect the most contemporary views which directly represent the movement from within. People of Color is a sub-unit group of the Occupy movement and a group devoted to “developing critical consciousness” within the 99% movement (http://www.facebook.com/POCcupy/info) and to equalize the imbalance of representation. By looking closely at how “people of color” are defined, we can gain a closer glimpse of how classical formations of race and differences are presented through discourse in American society. POC’s efforts to bring greater representation to people of color offer an underlying understanding to the tensions found in economic inequality and the overall 99% Movement. The movement’s efforts in challenging the power differences ultimately reveal a socially constructed hegemonic relation between those of distinct social classes and races. Identifying these groups lends an actionable framework around which groups can organize. These are similar premises to those around which sports teams operate. Essentially, in-group members of a socio-economic minority group self-characterize by reproducing hegemonic structures of social and race-based stratification. The POC differentiates in-group and out-group through broad self-representation as vicitimized and a specific representation of the out-group through stereotype.

This analysis will take a qualitative approach at analyzing discourse, reviewing first the methods used to extrapolate upon the aforementioned theories and hypothesis. Then a detailed analysis will be presented that draws upon key patterns and findings which led to the formation of this social theory.

II. Method

The corpus that is the subject of this analysis is comprised of messages and discussions, or posts, taken from the official social media web-sites of the People of Color Occupy movement. These include the POC Tumblr blog, the POC Working Group Twitter micro-blog and the POC Working Group Facebook page. Additionally, articles from outside sources posted by activists to their social media web-sites were included as representing activist discourse. The posts from these respective sites are organized in chronological order. Posts are taken from within the dates of October 3, 2011 and December 31, 2011. These dates reflect a time when activist organizers were generating texts most vigorously. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr play a vital role in how we gain access and view events in the world, and the occupy movement has been vastly portrayed through social media sites.  It has made the movement easier to follow and it can help people collaborate with people across the nation and the world. The social media genre is one of the only ways of studying a minority in-group perspective on the Occupy movement, though it is perhaps the best and most representative of the direct voices of all activists in the movement as discourse in such media is generated by all members of the group regardless of leadership status. Texts are compiled in a 33,28-token corpus with a Token/Type ratio of ~.16. Roughly 160 posts or articles combined comprise the corpus.

Several strategies were employed to derive the social theory mentioned earlier. The practices outlined by Svenja Adolphs are particularly helpful in preliminary identification and formation of this theory of exclusionary motivation (Svenja, 2006). Specifically, techniques such as generating frequency lists and then using collocation tables and analyzing concordance data for semantic prosody illuminates relationships between various words and phrases to similar lexical units surrounding them. In our corpus, we were able to see the rate in which words like “movement”, “justice”, “color”, or “race” occurred.  Looking to see how many times these words appeared helped us see just how the POC wanted to define themselves, and how often they decided to use a word.Tools such as KWIC, an electronic corpus analysis program, is significant for identifying patterns amongst lexical items and forming initial theories based on semantic prosody. For example, the word “white” was commonly found near the word “racist” or “racism.” The readings on Kelle and coding similarly helped identify patterns and key words that are relevant to the definition of color (Udo, 2000). Analysis methods such as those mentioned earlier (collocation tables, ect.) helped extrapolate on these codes. In this analysis some items proved irrelevant and could thus be discarded while unexpected patterns and meanings appeared. Also, Fairclough’s ideas surrounding clausal and sentence structure are also useful in deriving meaning from the POC corpus (Fairclough, 2003). Analysis of agency reveals in the case of POC one of the more basic ways in which group identity is formed. Understanding narrative structure and methods for analyzing race-based discourse taken from Van Dijk is similarly useful to understanding discourse construction by groups and race-group identity (Van Dijk, 2011).

III. Analysis

1. First Pattern

The POC represents group identity by re-creating itself as a minority. It does this in three ways; narration, specific out-group representation, and vague in-group representation.

<Narration>
The POC discourse as taken from the texts they create via social media offers a perspective which presents the assumption that the reader and the narrator of the text are in-group members. From both a syntagmatic and paradigmatic perspective this holds true. Pronoun usage such as “we” and “us” positions readers as in-group members.

“We spoke out about Racism in the 99 percent…”
“We spoke out about how nobody was talking about the racist….”
“Those of us in the POC spoke shared the deep concern…”
“Join us to help OWS….”

Cook’s Triangle of Communication highlights the positions of activist narrators and those spoken too in the text, by the text. For example, what is absent from the texts are narrator definition and indeed most forms of adjectives describing the group, revealing both in-group definition by defining what the group is not.

“When we wanted to address the people….”
“…so we know that Wall Street…”
“…reminds us that we must look…”

Contrast of actions and how groups are affected by each other/ will be affected (binaries)
Representation of Social actors (inclusion/exclusion, activated = victimizing, impersonal= institution, generic yet specific= institution/distinct attributes, classified= institution)

<Specific out-group definition>
Descriptors applying to out-group members generally took on a negative connotation, as proved by binary contrast analysis. Specific institutions, races or classes such as banker, corporation, government and white were common underlying thematic paradigms characterizing the out-group. These definitions are often paired with negative adjectives or actions, creating a binary of action against the in-group which legitimizes reactions by the group. For instance, the phrase “corporate greed” 68% of the times the word was found using a key-word analysis, where the other times “corporate” was paired with benefactor, profiteering, and occupation.

“white dominated movement…”
“Neither approach needs to be treated by whites as a threat…”
“…organized by upper-middle class, educated white…”
“oppressive ideas of whiteness…”
“whites need to acknowledge…”
“The capitalist class has historically used racism to divide…”
“…our government no longer represents us…”
“…government has been slashing away …”

Analysis establishes that out-group characteristics are most prominently socio-economic, and particularly racial. The word “white” is predominantly used to describe the out-group. Discourse thus centers on racial identity much of the time to define group character. Out of 90 samples of the word taken from the group 3 corpus all 90 uses of the word pertained to race. Compared to a random sample of 90 contexts surrounding the word “white” in the British National Corpus, it was 90% more likely to be used as a racial marker.

“being an anti-racist white…”
“white people haaaaate…”
“White kids whining that it’s unfair…”

<Vague in-group definition>
Group actions or concerns were also used to describe in-group members, rather than specific racial markers, which was decidedly vaguer than how the out-group was defined. In-group definition of the POC uses several referential strategies. The in-group is represented in a classical power struggle between those in power and those lacking power. Victimization is typically used to represent the in-group as well, as people who have been “oppressed” or subject to “social injustice.” In our Dedoose code section, we had a lot of sentences tagged with codes such as “group categorization,” “group characteristics,” and “identity” as you can see in the excerpts below;

“our movement against corporate…”
“…protests against banks and insurance…”
“we would like to see the nationalization of banks…”

Also, a lack of descriptors applying to in-group as denoted by token figures for the few instances of descriptors such as “black, Hispanic, Latino, LGBT, etc. are negligible. Speakers and those spoken too are back grounded while statements broadly include in-group members through general pronoun use and unspecific group actions.

“ We will protest…”
“We will stand in solidarity…”
“We should not forget…”
“We were called racist…”
“…they have evicted us…”
“…To help us face…”

We need to be aware of the fact that there are numbers of people who are not categorized in neither in-group nor out-group; in another word, 99% nor 1%. In critical analysis, it is a fallacy to claim that “if you are not 1%, you are 99%.” It syllogism has not been well established and can be considered enthymeme. This is the case of Modus Tollens. For example, the middle-class people, which we believe majority of us who go to UW are also categorized in this section, receive education, have enough food and drink, basic health care, and some luxuries that satisfies their life to some extent. These people seem quite different from those who participate in POC movement such as long-term unemployed workers or homeless people.

2. Second Pattern: 

Internal and emotional stimulants used as a motive for gaining support and spreading representation.

We could observe many cases of usage of internal and emotional stimulants as a motive for encouraging POC blogs viewers to support their actions and will within the movement and spreading its representation widely. POC approaches to people using pathos, an appeal to audiences or viewers’ emotion. Use of pathos is very effective way to gain more power and representation for this POC’s 99% movement. It helps not only convincing people to support POC by victimizing their representation, but also it builds stronger interaction and bonds between POC and followers of their movement. For example, you can observe the pathological approach in a sentence below;

“Within an emotional justice framework, someone is able to bring up their pain.”

In the example, emotional justice is referred to as a framework, where pain is experienced. The form that this example is presented in is through a collective identity, which shows plurality, complexity, and involves the identity of a community (Dijk, 2006). As this shows, the use of the ‘justice pattern’ brings the issues into an internal form where individuals are identifying themselves. This is how this ‘justice pattern’ plays a part in exploring the claim in using identity as a driving force in equalizing the social and economic inequality.

IV. Conclusion

Throughout the analysis, a close association is taken to how the text uses the theme of creating an environment where identity is chosen by splitting up in and out-groups to oppose the social and economic power imbalances in terms of the People of Color Working Group and the 99% Movement. Through the essay, the methods of corpus linguistics and qualitative coding allowed us to extract the meaning found underneath the text and within the genre of social media. Unlike the OWS movement, the smaller POC is not so broadly inclusive in terms of members. Although there are times in POC generated discourse where definitions of membership still represent individuals with out-group-like characteristics, there seems to be fairly specific criteria for those presented as POC members. Typically, as in the case of the POC, in-group members of the socio-economic minority group self-characterize by reproducing hegemonic structures of social and race-based stratification. The POC wants to differentiate itself from other groups. The more branched out they can be, the more unique they will seem, and perhaps they will garner more attention as a group.  However, at the same time, they want to include as many as possible, by leaving the definition of “color” completely open.  These people of color tend to associate themselves as a subset group of the 99%–a 1% of the 99% if you will. As can be seen in analysis of both the sub-division undertaken by POC discourse generators within OWS and more broadly in society, out-group and in-group characterization is motivational. Negative qualities attributed to out-group characteristics are paired with actionable perspectives similar to how pronouns both define and are paired with phrases to define groups and promote group action. Overall this generates a better understanding of how classical struggles such as those undertaken to fight inequality by the POC can reveal a broader understanding of race-based power relations in a society (Means, 1992).

One particular interesting finding of our research was that counter-hegemonic power try to fight against hegemony using a classical stereotypical hegemonic imageries. As we have mentioned many times with various examples, victimizing in-group and making out-group look like an evil enemy has used in POC’s discourse. We found their representation of both have created with hegemonic stereotypes. It is a very unique and interesting to see the ironic relationship between hegemonic power and counter-hegemony. Even though subordinated groups of people challenge hegemony, their claim to discredit hegemony does not even exist without the figure of hegemony in their appeal and discourse.

Finally, in context of the greater 99% Movement, we have discussed how this form of support-gathering executed by the People of Color Working Group helped us understand the forces behind the supporters of the 99% movement in raising awareness, gaining support, and struggling to create a counterbalance to the nation-wide social, racial, and economic hegemonic power imbalances. Social inequality remains in our society for too long time in our history producing anger, sadness, misery, grief, hopelessness, fear, and other diverse negative feelings that can not be described only with visual words here. Yet, now, with the power of today’s high technology, more and more people are enabled to speak up their ideas in public and gather with those who share the same ideas to claim it in the entire world across the nation and the world. Many underrepresented people started to shout their voice to counter hegemony today. However, we must emphasize that each one of us including these counter-hegemonic people must consider what the “real meaning of equality” is in terms of being active in movements to seek the true equal society in this world.

V. References

Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse studies. (2 ed., pp. 268-273). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Means, R. (October 23, 1992). Acting against racism. Entertainment Weekly, 102392, 141.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Words and Phrases in Use: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 4 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 51-63.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Electronic Text Analysis, Language and Ideology.” Chapter 6 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 80-96.

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. (2nd Ed.) London, UK: Sage.Ch. 12,14,15.

Kelle, Udo. “Computer-Assisted Analysis: Coding and Indexing.” Chapter 16 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000. 282-298.