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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.

Waging War against the Poor: Representing Wealth in Activist Blogs

Group 17: Jessica Heinmiller, Ali Ladoba, Eric Leung & Erika Samson

Photo By Gretchen Robinette

Introduction

Our topical focus looks at the phenomenon of wealth, which is an important topic to explore because economic inequality is directly tied to other forms of social inequality. Wealth produces many of our common views and stereotypes about social character, power and prestige. Above all, wealth affects everyone. We are mainly interested in the strategies activists use with language to construct representative identities of members of both the 99% and 1% groups, as implicated by wealth. We examined the strategic use of language by activists to position supporters of the Occupy movement in a way that helps them understand who they are and who they are against.

One of the main themes that we found was the activists’ construction of meaning by classifying specific positive or negative attributes to one of the two separate wealth groups. Activists seek to legitimize the 99% by selectively emphasizing differences between the 99% and the 1%, however, they inadvertently reinforce and effectively reproduce dominant institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth, thereby creating vast differences amongst people, perpetuating stereotypes about people of certain classes.

We begin by first looking at the discourse genre of activist blogs and website, and reviewing the strategies that we used in our analyses of the texts. We will then be able to further our examination with a more comprehensive analysis of the patterns that we considered to be the most significant to our thesis.

Methods

Generally, discourse analysis methods are ways for us to understand abstractions and the “reality” of which we live in through language use. We are able to read things through a different lens, as well as on different levels (micro, meso, and macro analysis). The Occupy movement is about how the majority of this country, the 99% middle-/lower-classes, are wanting to close, or at least minimize the class-/income-gap more between them and the nation’s wealthiest people, the 1%. By using discourse analysis methods we are able to take a step further and expand our understanding of the movement by looking at how and why articles and essays are written the way they were, and how those certain strategies connect to the movement.

One strategy we used extensively was qualitative coding, which is the process of constructing “meaningful patterns of facts by looking for structures in the data” (Kelle, 2000). This strategy of coding was the basis for our research. Qualitative coding allowed us to foreground the patterns that came up repeatedly throughout our discourse texts. We also used the strategy of critically viewing the representation of social actors, in order to determine the “socially significant choices in representation of social actors” (Fairclough, 2003). Throughout our research, we were able to find instances where the 99% would represent themselves as the in-group and the 1% as the out-group, emphasizing themselves as the main focus for the movement. Another part of our analysis was to see who was written about through a more personal standpoint, who were active participants in the movement, and who weren’t. This has helped us look further into how wealth has created and enforced characterizations of the upper -and middle-/lower-classes and how it is shown throughout the Occupy movement. We enhanced this strategy by also examining equivalence and difference, which recognizes that “the ‘work’ of classification is constantly going on in texts, with entities being either differentiated from one another, put in opposition to one another, or being set up as equivalent to one another” (Fairclough, 2003). Since we are interested in how activists use language to represent the two different identities of the 1% and the 99%, I employed these two strategies together with the goal of exposing the hidden ideologies that seek to legitimate social inequalities (Rose, 2007).

Since many activists claim to be misrepresented by national and local news media, we wanted to see how the activists represent themselves and their opponents in activist blogs and websites. Activist blogs are extremely important to look at because not only are they politically important, but also they are influential on activists worldwide. Activists are able to express their thoughts and opinions candidly, without anyone from “the outside” to filter their words, showing the public who may be seeking more information what their objective is of this movement. Other activists and supporters of the movement use these texts to understand who they are and who their opponents are.

Our specialized corpus includes texts from a variety of activist blogs and websites, namely, Occupy Everything, Occupied Stories, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, The NeoConArtist. In addition, our group looked at texts from Occupy Seattle, Occupy Oakland and Occupy Boston. We collected a total of 232 texts. All of the texts were produced by activists from September 2011 to May 2012, allowing us to see how the articles have evolved or remained about the same with their language choices. There are a total of 155,960 words in our corpus and a type/token ratio of 0.0842. Our search parameters included the words: Occupy, activist, 1%, 99%, inequality, income and wealth. By having a diverse set of articles that share a common theme of being from activists part of the 99%, we were able to find patterns as to how the activists represented themselves differently from their opponents.

Although activist bogs and websites strive to empower members of the 99% by embodying a call to action, these texts actually reflect the dominant ideology that more wealth is better.

Pattern 1 – Activists use activation and passivation by portraying the 1% as the actors and the 99% as the beneficiaries of the act.

The first pattern that we observed is the activists’ portrayals of the 1% as the actors and the 99% as the beneficiaries of the act. As a result, readers perceive the 1% as the ones with power and the 99% as the powerless ones. I will explain three kinds of activation and passivation techniques which I found to be prevalent. The following is an excerpt that emphasizes activation of the 1%:

(This article, “Why We Need Free Media”, was posted on Occupied Wall Street Journal on April 11, 2012).

“Minneapolis police charged a peaceful march, beating protesters and arresting a dozen people. As described by Occupy Minneapolis: Videos show officers pulling several people off public sidewalks, slamming one violently into the street and deliberately censoring the mainstream and independent press. […] We had hoped to reestablish an occupation to bring attention to social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the foreclosure crisis, but instead were met with a crackdown by the Minneapolis Police Department.”

In each clause, police are the social actors who are acting by beating, arresting, pulling, slamming, and censoring the activists. Here, the police, representative of the 1%, demonstrate their “capacity for agentive action, for making things happen, for controlling others” (Fairclough, 2003). The 1% have the power to act, in contrast to the 99%, who are depicted as powerless. Now, consider an excerpt that portrays passivation of the 99%:

(This article, “Occupy Turns Up The Heat”, was posted on Cynical Times on March 25, 2012 by Victor Epstein).

“A cop grabbed Messiah and dragged her to the sidewalk by her arm, and then I was pushed on top of the cop who was cuffing her. Another cop was holding on to her by her shirt and then dragged her away, which is when her shirt ripped open, exposing her to the crowd.”

Here, 16-years-old activist Messiah is shown in passivation. She is acted upon by the police, who grabbed, dragged, pushed, and cuffed her; her shirt even ripped by itself, further subjugating her. Her subjection to the processes and eagerness to be affected by the actions of others is accentuated so much that she resembles a victim (Fairclough, 2003). Next, is an excerpt that demonstrates simultaneously, activation of the 1% and passivation of the 99%:

(This article, “11/15 And Moving Forward”, was posted on Occupied Stories on November 18, 2011).

“This man demanded, repeatedly and very clearly, to speak with their supervising officers about the actions they were taking. I saw that man pushed by an officer behind a riot shield, and I caught him before he could fall over a fire hydrant and seriously injure himself. I saw that man bent over a nearby car and arrested with zip ties, and then I saw a woman chanting in defense of the Occupation pepper sprayed in the face.”

The strategic use of activation and passivation reveals the power dynamic of the relationship of the 1% and the 99%. As seen in the excerpt, one activist tries to act, but instead receives a push from the officer. Another activist displays her support for the movement, only to be pepper sprayed. Every action from the 99% prompts a reaction from the 1%. And the reaction appears to be justified merely on the basis of possessing more wealth.

Pattern 2 – Activists create a clear separation among the two wealth groups by categorization.

A second pattern that we saw is activists placing people into different categories within the social world, in this case the categories of wealth, in order to create meaning. Meaning is made through classificatory systems. Examine the following excerpt, which exemplifies categorization:

(This article, “Blogging Occupy USA, for October 1-2: Over 700 Arrests in NYC, Protests Spread Elsewhere”, was posted on The Nation on October 1, 2011).

“2:45 Thanks to @DhaniBagels for noting this, which unites my two current main issues, a sign at protest yesterday in NYC:   “I won’t believe that corporations are people until #Texas executes one.”

Here, an activist claims that corporations are not people because they cannot be executed. This statement visibly differentiates the two wealth groups into two categories. In one category, there are the privileged 1% corporations who cannot be executed by Texas’ laws. In the other category, there are the 99% people who unfortunately can be executed by the laws. The process of categorization shows that the wealthy are more advantaged than the poor. Next is an instance of categorization with a similar classification scheme:

(This article, “November 17: Historic Day of Action for the 99%”, was posted on Occupy Wall Street on November 18, 2011).

“Tens of thousands took action Thursday, November 17 to demand that our political system serve all of us — not just the wealthy and powerful”

Classification and categorization can have a great influence in shaping how readers think and act as social agents (Fairclough, 2003). Like the previous excerpt, this excerpt provides a clear separation of the two wealth groups; it says that our political system serves only the rich and not the poor. Thus, it is better to be wealthy. When activists make demands for equality, like in this excerpt, the result is an emphasis of differences between them and their opponents. And the differences usually reflect the institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth.

Pattern 3 – Activists often portrayed themselves in an impersonal way, disregarding the ideological square.

The following excerpt demonstrates the strategy of personal/impersonal representation:

(This article, “Deep in the Heart of Occupy Austin: Chapter 1”, was posted on Occupied Stories on January 4, 2012).

“The occupy group was as serious as any I’d ever seen, and true to Austin’s form, the homeless alcoholics who peppered the crowd were being surly and uncooperative. When a list went around for people to sign up and speak, a shirtless bum named Tommy signed up, but when his name was called to speak-at least five times-he awoke from a drunken slumber, and then slowly and clumsily sat upright. He wiped the slobber off his chin with the back of his hand and mumbled, “You gonna have to give me a minute,” then he fell back and passed out again. His hairless white beer belly was aglow in the slanting afternoon sun. He looked like a dead goldfish floating belly-up in an old fish bowl, dusty and forgotten on the bottom shelf of humanity.”

Here, the 99% occupiers are associated with the terms: homeless, alcoholics, surly, uncooperative, shirtless bum, drunk, slow, clumsy, beer belly, dusty and forgotten, all of which are negative and impersonal descriptors. As a result, the 99% group gets delegitimized. It becomes hard for readers envision themselves in these representations. The following excerpt shows a similar representation of the 99%:

(This article, “Occupy Wall Street Protesters Win Showdown With Bloomberg”, was posted on The Nation on October 14, 2011).

“We don’t win! We’re the ones who get the shit kicked out of us!”

In this excerpt, 99% occupiers are depicted in an impersonal way. This impersonal representation reduces legitimacy for the 99% by drawing focus on them in a negative way. The impersonal representation dehumanizes the 99%, removing the focus from them as people and representing them as elements of institutional structures (Fairclough, 2003). It is important to note, as well, that the excerpt uses the strategy of in-grouping to make readers feel a part of the 99%. But since the 99% group is represented in an impersonal manner, it makes readers less willing to join with the 99% in-grouping.

Pattern 4 – Activists separated the 99% and the 1% through the strategy of in-group and out-group by using pronouns.

The following excerpt demonstrates an instance where activists refer to themselves as part of the in-group, using the pronoun “we” and the 1% as a part of the out-group by using the pronoun “they”:

(This article, “The Unwinnable War on Dissent”, was posted on Occupy Wall Street on March 20, 2012).

“They want to prevent us from making this spring huge. We won´t let them. When they evicted our encampments, we merely went elsewhere, delved deeper into community organizing, perfected our tactics, and built-up our infrastructure. The police use violence to preserve economic inequality, but this will backfire. Every time they attack us, we grow. With every bloodied Occupier and evicted peaceful protest, the number of people who are disgusted with the status quo rises. The war on dissent is inherently unwinnable. Through sustained nonviolent resistance in the face of escalating repression, their legitimacy wanes and our power grows. The whole world is watching. Spring is coming. We are getting ready.”

The activists tended to refer to the 1% with a negative tone attached whereas referring to themselves as peaceful and innocent in comparison. For example, “Every time they attack us; we grow”. The clear use of ‘they’ and ‘we’ represent the in-grouping and out-grouping along with paradigmatic choice by using words like ‘attack’ when referencing the ‘out group’ (the 1%) portrays them to be violent and malicious. This pattern represents how the 99% portray themselves as to be a part of the in group by referring to the 1% as ‘they’ and themselves as ‘we’ or ‘us.” Additionally, this excerpt displays the strategic use of activation and passivation explained earlier, in which the 1% evidently have agency in the excerpt and the 99% are subjected to that agency. This juxtaposes the image of the two groups, where the 1% are violent and capable of acting, and the 99% are peaceful and only receive the effects of acts. Consider the next excerpt that ties paradigmatic choice with in-group and out-group:

(This article, “Occupy Wall Street and the Importance of Creative Protest”, was posted on The Nation on November 21, 2011 by Allison Kilkenny).

“And the one percent find such evolved protest—this kind of global awakening—absolutely bone-chillingly terrifying. If the elites can no longer exploit xenophobia, red state–blue state civil war, racism, sexism or homophobia, how will they keep the underclass bickering while they run off with the country’s wealth?”

Based off of what Wodak and Mayer said about paradigmatic choice, the fact that in this example the 99% was questioning the out-group’s intentions and thoughts, leads you to believe that they are bad and that they plan to act on it. You as the reader are led to this idea by the discourse around the specific words and text we are analyzing, unaware that this language is allowing you to paint a picture in your mind generating ‘they’ as the “bad guys.” In the excerpt, “they” are also marked by the descriptor of “elites”, while the 99% are distinguished as “the underclass”. This was a paradigmatic choice by choosing to portray the two wealth groups in these particular terms. It also reveals which group is valued by society and has power. Once again, the 1% are depicted as the actors with agency in this excerpt. The in-group and out-group clearly show that the two groups are separated by wealth.

Conclusion

Although activists try to legitimize the 99% by emphasizing certain differences between the 99% and the 1%, they unknowingly reproduce the dominant institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth. Each of the patterns that I explored throughout the essay supports this notion. First, wealth enables actions: the 1% are activated, while the 99% are passivated. Second, wealth justifies social groups: the 1% are classified as a privileged group within the system, while the 99% are classified as an excluded group from the system; the 99% in-group is overlooked by the system. Third, wealth legitimates social groups: the 99% are shown in negative and impersonal representations. Now, we must consider the implications of these claims on a broader scale.

We come to understand the phenomenon of wealth by viewing its representations in media. As with any phenomenon, our understanding of wealth is cultivated over time, by our repeated exposure to the same messages. If we continue to see typical representations that mirror the dominant institutionalized ideologies, from traditional news media as well as activist blogs and websites, sooner or later, we may unintentionally adopt those belief systems and come to believe that the wealthy are better than the poor. This study reveals how activist blogs and websites serve as an instrument that conversely strengthens the status quo by positioning readers to embrace the institutionalized ideologies.

References

Fairclough, N. (2003). Meaning relations between sentences and clauses (pp. 87-104). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hien, D., & Honeyman, T. (2000). A closer look at the drug abuse-maternal aggression link. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 503-522. Retrieved from http://jiv.sagepub.com/

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

Nielsen, M. E. (n.d.). Notable people in psychology of religion. Retrieved from http://www.psywww.com/psyrelig/psyrelpr.htm

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

Robinette, G. (Photographer). (2012). Retrieved from http://www.cynicaltimes.org/articles/occupy-turns-up-the-heat-222.htm

Rose, G. (2007). Chapter 5: Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful. Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials (74-106). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Wodak, Ruth, and Michael Meyer. “Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis.” sagepub.com. Version Second Edition. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2012.

Image Compliments of TheBlogOfProgress.com

Say What You Mean: Defining The Occupy Movement
Group 13: Khani Le, Jordan Nugent, Hanna Fjortoft, Melissa Albrecht, and Lindsay Hudson

   Our group has focused heavily on the language used by the 1% in comparison to that which is used by the 99%. We sought to explore the different languages that are used in regards to the Occupy Movement on blogs from September 2011 to January 2012. We chose this area because we believed that the informal arena of blogs represents the mainstream view of the issue and is a strong proponent in the continuation of the Occupy Movement efforts. The words and patterns that the two binary social classes—those who present themselves as the 1% and the 99%—use is crucial in our understanding of the complexity of the Occupy Movement. Our goal with this research was to explore how these social groups consider themselves and those around them through blogs about the Occupy Movement.

It is our goal to illustrate that the language used by those in the Occupy Movement is heavily focused on positioning themselves within the social structure of the United States by Othering and that the use of collocation and concordance lines illuminate the impact that language surrounding the Occupy Movement has.

   As far as the corpus linguistics methods went, this was where we used concordance lines, collocation tables, and word frequencies to further carry out our data and understanding of the terms we have chosen to word with. For the concordance lines, we used a program that arranges all instances of a particular search item in a way that makes the search item appear in the center of the page. Using a word or a phrase can generate KWIC, key word in context. We did this with our whole corpora and then individually selected the term we each wanted to focus on. As for the collocation tables, these were the co-occurrence of words with no more than four intervening words. On the paradigmatic dimension it is defined rather differently, because items can only collocate with each other when present in the text and two items in a particular paradigm are by that arrangement classed as mutually exclusive (McCreless).

   A quick glance at collocation lines for the corpus shows that of the top 10 words collocated most closely with “protesters,” “peaceful” is the seventh most popular descriptor. The other words in the top 10 list are all unbiased descriptors: words like “the” and “occupy.”

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

the 79 8 6 9 2 30 protesters

street 12 0 1 0 1 7 protesters

some 9 0 0 1 0 5 protesters

and 22 3 2 2 2 3 protesters

of 26 0 6 3 7 3 protesters

peaceful 4 0 0 0 0 3 protesters

occupy 8 0 0 5 0 2 protesters

other 4 1 0 1 0 2 protesters

park 11 1 3 0 2 2 protesters

    This indicates that the majority of what is being said about the protestors in this corpus is slanted toward the positive, “peaceful” being a description aimed at increasing favor towards the protestors and the movement. After a careful examination of the instances where “peaceful” was being used, it became increasingly obvious that those blogs that described protestors as being peaceful were blogs that were pro-Occupy.

Just as pro-Occupy blogs identified themselves through their sympathetic descriptions of the protesters, so too did the anti-Occupy blogs with critical, demeaning descriptions. The most common discourse methods used to produce meaning for “protester” in anti-Occupy blogs were othering (i.e., “liberal progressive socialist Marxists”, and “their anti-American progressive socialist behaviour…,” etc.), us-versus-them pronoun usage (through the use of “them” and “their” coupled with negative descriptions), and, most strikingly, the seeming refusal to actually use the word “protester.” In these anti-Occupy blogs, lexical choices favored “occupiers,” “hippies,” and even “idiots” over the more neutral “protester,” suggesting that the authors wished to prescribe a more negative view of the Occupy movement (Chandler, 2007). Additional negative descriptors were often layered on top of these “protester”-substitutions, as the collocation tables below show:

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

blaming 1 0 1 0 0 0 occupiers

chumming 1 0 1 0 0 0 occupiers

failing 1 0 0 1 0 0 occupiers

loathsome 1 0 0 0 0 1 occupiers

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

occupy 3 0 0 2 0 0 idiots

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

dirty 1 0 0 1 0 0 hippies

libertarians 1 0 0 0 0 0 hippies

#occupywallstreet 1 0 1 0 0 0 hippies

ragtag 1 0 0 0 0 1 hippies

smelly 1 0 0 0 1 0 hippies

   All blogs utilizing such descriptors identified themselves as being anti-Occupy.

   Another way this pattern is perpetuated is by the use of in-grouping the protesters and out-grouping their opponents. This is done by othering, using quotations to discredit unfavorable protester descriptions, and us-versus-them pronoun usage. Othering is also apparent in pro-Occupy blogs, targeting the police and members of the 1%. Descriptions like “smart-mouthed” and “infamous” are aimed at these out-group members alongside the positive and sympathetic descriptions of the protesters. Combined, these paradigmatic choices lend specific political alliances to the blog posts.

Concordance lines can be particularly useful and, “the advantage of using this technique in such contexts lies in the unmediated nature of corpus data, which allows the analyst to tap into the way which certain words are used in real-life contexts” (Adolphs, 2006). By entering these excerpts, many words including, ‘I, our, their, they, and we’ were exceptionally high with ‘they’ as the highest with 25 times. This shows that by repeatedly using these words it can form this artificial boundary between these opposing groups. Using these particular pronouns creates an in-group/out-group effect and produces a stressed illusion of reality. 

Analyzing the different blogs and how often the author used particular language that formed the artificial boundary of the 1% and 99%, between good and evil. Many words, such as ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘they’, and ‘them’ are widely used in these blogs to create the sense of unity, defining the ‘other’ to define themselves and what they stand for. Van Dijk explains this concept by noting that, “the way in-groups and out-groups are represented in text and talk, prototypically represented by the ideological pronouns Us and Them” (Van Dijk 2006). By locating these types of words it accentuates the tactic of othering to create a boundary between these two groups. Analyzing the 1% vs. 99% comparisons excerpts, and highlighting words throughout the corpus demonstrate this method.

Othering was also prevalent in the texts we analyzed. In the Real Truth, we identified an othering statement: “The corporate media people are so comfortable, and so ensconced in their position, they do not believe there is any significant dissent; the situation is ingrained, routine and habitual.” This form of in-grouping/out-grouping puts the problems in America on “corporate media people” shoulders and effectively denounces any responsibility from the rest of the population, and even goes as far as to suggest that those who are responsible for the movement are ignorant to real situations. In the blog The Generation, it states, “Rather than a voice representative of the American people, the US is instead offered with…millionaires and billionaires that don’t represent the rest of the country.” It’s an interesting cultural note here that “millionaires and billionaires” are conceived so differently from the rest of us that they are not able to speak as anything other than their net worth. This is an example of othering that vilifies humans based on a truly frivolous aspect of their life, and reflects upon American society the idea that everyone else is absolutely different from you, and therefore to blame for the problems of life. One of our key findings was that people, regardless of where they stand regarding the Occupy Movement, think of the “other” people as the problem, and that if only they changed, everything would work out.

Our research—along with the patterns that we’ve identified—aids in the understanding of how people react in the situations that the Occupy Movement places American citizens in. The different excerpts help illuminate the way that different people in the movement use language in order to further their individual intentions—which was what our research sought to prove.

Resources

Canales, M. K. (2000). Othering: Toward an Understanding of Difference. New York: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse and Ideology. In T. A. Dijk, Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction (p. 396). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Ltd.

M. Hauser, F. C.-X. (2007). A Dissociation Between Moral Judgments and Justifications. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Russell S. Tomlin, L. F. (2006). Discourse Semantics. In T. A. Dijk, Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction (p. 42). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Ltd.

Fairclough, Norman, Jane Mulderrig, and Ruth Wodak (2006). “Critical Discourse Analysis” Chapter 17, pg. 358. Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction.

Fina, Anna De (2006). “Discourse and Identity” Chapter 13, pgs. 269-270. Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction.

Kramarae, Cheris and Michelle M. Lazar (2006). “Gender and Power in Discourse” Chapter 11, pg. 233. Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction.

McCreless, Patrick. “Syntagmatics & Paradigmatics: Some Implications for the Analysis Chromaticism.” JSTOR. Web. 23 May 2012.<http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/745896?uid=3739856>.

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

Chandler, D. (2007). Semiotics, the basics. (2 ed.). Psychology Press.

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

Rose, G. (2007). Chapter 5: Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful. Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials (pp.74-106). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Image

IDENTITY of the 99%: How the activists represent themselves through Tumblr

Group 14: Garrett King, Lauren Mitchell, Megan Liu, Brannen Jennings, & Yiyan Luo

1. Introduction

Activists involved in the Occupy Movement claim to be part of the 99%, whereas the other 1 percent of the nation represents the wealth and power domination that the 99 percent lacks.  Our group thought it would be interesting to study the identities of the activists who are involved in this movement and how the average activist defines him/herself therefore we did.  Some of these activists post their statements and stories on a Tumblr blog claiming their identity in the 99 percent.  For our group’s purpose, it is important to analyze how the participants represent themselves so we can better understand their participation in this movement and the Occupy Movement as a whole.  We wanted to examine their identities by looking at their representation of their age, income, education, employment and emotion.  Our goal was to find patterns or trends among those who are pushing force behind this social/political movement.  The ways in which the activists represent themselves go hand in hand with the words they choose to use and how they construct them in their discourse.  The words the activists choose to use can also influence the media and persuade or mislead the public from their prior beliefs of equality and equal opportunity in our country.  Activists of the Occupy Movement are representing themselves as hopeless and helpless through the language they use regarding education, finances, and employment.

This analysis will include a discussion of our research methods, including a description of our discourse genre and corpus.  Following the discussion of methods we employed, we will review key findings regarding the participants’ discussion of education, age, employment, finances, and emotion and how they used it to form their identities as helpless.

2. Methods

As discourse analysts, we used a mixture of Critical Discourse Analysis, Corpus Linguistic, and Semiotics methodology to analyze the way in which the participants identify themselves.  “Many CL methods are quantitative and/or make use of statistical tests, which are performed by computer software. However, most CL methods require considerable human input, which often includes qualitative analysis (such as examining concordance lines)” (Baker et al, p. 274).  We examined the syntagmatic, or grammatical, and paradigmatic, or lexical, aspects of linguistic choice among the activists.  After collecting a corpus of texts, we used computer software Key Word in Context (KWIC) to quantitatively analyze the texts for keyword frequencies, concordance lines, and collocation.  According to Adolphs, key words “are often identified intuitively as prime candidates that may facilitate the process of uncovering a certain type of ideology in language” (p. 84).  These KWIC methods allow us to analyze the context around specific keywords.  After our quantitative analysis, we analyzed our findings and produced a descriptive word analysis of how our individual word (each group member chose a keyword) was used in our corpus.  Diving deeper into qualitative analysis, we then used the Dedoose.com software platform to perform two rounds of coding our corpus.  When coding, “in the initial stages it should be done as inclusively as possible, so that all borderline instances can be counted in rather than out” (Gill, p. 180).  The first round was an inductive process of open coding to find general patterns in our corpus and the second round was a deductive process of structured coding that allowed us to narrow our analysis to focus on five codes: education, employment, money, age, and emotion.  Upon coding the entire corpus for these five patterns, we used a process of hermeneutics to further qualitatively interpret our findings.

The discourse genre we focused on was the Tumblr blog from September 2011 to May 2012.  Tumblr is a website/blog that has facilitated over 21 billion postings made and created by individual people of the public.  Their goal is to create the perfect platform for self- expression, so that people can share their opinions and have a place where it is seen or heard.  Tumblr is millions of people sharing the things they do, find, love, think, or create.  The reason why this is an important genre for us to use is because our study is focusing on the perspective of the people who are involved and active in this movement.  Tumblr is a blog that helps us to see messages, text, and pictures directly from the source we are analyzing.  We will be using the letters and pictures submitted and posted by individual activists to see how they identify themselves.  Taking a sample of the postings over the range of time this movement has been occurring is how we will find the demographics and the identity portrayed by the activists in the occupy movement. Within the blog, we selected and transcribed 150 of the images from September 2011 to April 2012 to form our 21,549-word corpus. Each of our group members analyzed 30 of the 150 texts.

3. Analysis

 3.1 Activists take no “real  action” to change their unemployment situation

One of the activists says that “I am 26 years old, I worked since I am 16 and I cannot find full time job. I am the 99% and I want change.” This activist uses the phrase “I want change” instead of “ I want TO change”, which shows s/he is passive that s/he is waiting for others to help him/her. The only action s/he takes is speaking out his/her situation but not willing to change the situation by him/herself. Another example which is related to another keyword our group has: education,

“I finished my college and currently apply to grad school so that I can further my education and hopefully obtain a better paying job…I am the 99% looking for change.”

Many activists on Tumblr are at least high school education level and some of them are even college educated but having no job. They really have the abilities to change their situations. However they choose to speak out their problems and wait for others’ helps


3.2 People age 20-30 are concerned more about their college debt

         Out of all the participants who stated their age in their posted blogs, 21% is under the age of 20, 50% exactly is between ages 20 to 30, 11% is between 30-40 years old, 10% is between the age 40-50, 8% is between 50-60 years old, 1% is over the age of 60. According to the data percentage, most people who participated in the online 99% blog posting are between the ages of 20-30. The reason why half of the participants are between 20-30 is unknown. It might because they have better access of the Internet so that they have more information about this occupy Wall Street protest. It might also because they really are in a economic disadvantages. Each age group associates with education, employment and unemployment, emotion and their debt level in different degrees.
The first pattern we found under this part when relating age together with other factors our group is studying is that people in the age of 20-30 who claimed they are the 99% are heavily in debt from their college student loans. Most of them have college degree. Also, people in this age bracket are just entering the workforce. They have not paid back their student loans yet, and many of the loans are up to 60,000 dollars. It is a burden to people who just entered his work force for couple years. Another reason that they have hard time paying back their debt is that they either have no job after college, or their wage is extremely low that can barely pay their monthly expenses. They mostly blame the economy that responsible for the situation, which they cannot find jobs that they are majored in, or jobs that pay well. Emotions in this age bracket appear mostly positive. They think the economy is going to be better with better system. Yet, there are few outliers who think that his life is not worth living, or scared of the future. It appears that different age groups have different problems to face, but all the problems are overlap with each other. The degree of their concerns is different. People in their 20s concern more about their student loan, leading a heavy debt after graduation. They also concern about their job and how they are going to pay the debts back. People after 30 concern more about their mortgage, their job, their family and their children. The findings support my theses because they prove in words how they describe their life situations are. In conclusion, people who claim they are the 99% are seem to be in financial disadvantages. Most of them have certain degree of education but they cannot get jobs that satisfy their needs. The economy has put them into even worse life condition with no job and income to pay their living expenses.

3.3 Participants use emotive language to describe their circumstance and invoke action from viewers.

Many of the participants use language that refers to fear, and many times it is referring to their living conditions or basic survival needs, they are using very strong and open ended adjectives, like afraid, scared, or tired to get the attention of the reader.  As Fairclough stated, “the whole process of social interaction of which a text is just a part. This process includes in addition to the text the process of production, of which the text is the product, and the process of interpretation, for which the text is a resource. (Fairclough)” (Poole, Article).  The interesting thing about analyzing the discourse this way and using the context is that we as the viewer are the ones who will interpret what they are really trying to say and express.  All of these participants are afraid that no one will help them, they expect for other people to change their situations and circumstances, while they are really the only ones who can truly change

“I am AFRAID.  Even if I live within my means, NOT having: children, buying cars, designer clothes, vacations, fancy gadgets, mortgages, jewelry, or any other non-necessity items, that when I come out of this Education, I will not even have the chance to get a job. I am afraid, that when I can’t afford the non-necessity AND the necessity items….like food, and shelter, that nobody will be there to help me.”

“I’m afraid of the debt I will have in the future, and of the chance that I won’t be able to find a job out of school. I’m afraid that I’ll have to work minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life, even though that’s all I’ve been doing since I was 15 years old. Who’s supposed to help me?”

3.4 Activists define themselves as helpless due to their inability to attend college or to finish college

Many of the activists used the Tumblr blog to express their frustration in their inability to attend college.  They often used their lack of education as a justification for their life circumstances.  It was apparent that many of the Tumblr activists talked about college in relation to being a “dropout.”  Collocation and examining concordance lines were critical tools of analysis behind this finding.  According to Adolphs, collocation “refers to the habitual co-occurrence of words” within a corpus (p. 56).  Collocation is important because “intentionally combining two (or more) lexical items requires the insight that each element makes a separate contribution to the overall meaning and function of the utterance” (Schmid and Handl, p. 126).  When collocating for the node “college,” one of the most common words in proximity was “dropout.”  For example, one activist said, “I am a college dropout…who is all but destroyed by that one mistake.”  Another said, “I attempted to go to college but was forced to drop out due to lack of money and I ended up with a $20,000 loan debt which took me 5 years to pay back and this was community college.”  Through collocation, it was apparent that other negative words surrounded “college” such as “burdened,” “destroyed,” “mistake,” “struggling,” and “terrified.”  These words enhance emotions of pity in the reader, which, therefore, supports their feeling of helplessness.

3.5 Activists represent themselves as in a bad financial situation because of something or someone else.

In analyzing my corpus, through collocation and concordance tables, I noticed a pattern of shifting the blame of a bad financial situation to someone or something else.  Furthermore, they represent themselves as participants that are powerless. To fully understand how they represent themselves as in a poor financial situation I looked at causal semantic relationship that was occurring quite frequently. When they wrote about being in debt or having no money it was always because of school loans or the recession or some other factor. Moreover they represent themselves as the victims instead of ones responsible for their bad situations by being passivated, which simply means they are “the Affected or Beneficiary (loosely. The one affected by processes)” (Fairclaugh Norman, 2003). Here are a few out of many excerpts from my corpus that exemplify this relationship and representation.

“In massive debt because of that once ‘dream degree’”
“debt because of the recession.”
“had issues paying the rent, because his boss was late in paying his wages.”
“because education is the first thing to get cut.”
“because I had been unemployed for over 3 years already and needed the money.”

Collocated by the word debt very often is the word because explaining why they are in debt. The word because occurs 111 times in my corpus of 150 blog posts. Almost every blog post has this causal relationship and in not one instance is the cause because they made a poor decision, it is always the cause of other factors such as the economy, government and or other circumstances requiring loans. Looking at this causal semantic relationship is of value because it gives meaning to the clause. They are in debt or financial downfall for a reason and this causal relationship uncovers that reason. The process by how we create this meaning can be explained by “equivalence and difference – what laclau and Mouffe (1985) identify, with respect to political hegemony, as the simultaneous operation of a ‘logic of difference’ and a ‘logic of equivalence’. These are respectively tendencies towards creating and proliferating differences between objects, entities, groups of people etc. as equivalent to each other.” (Fairclaugh Norman, 2003) This is simply the process our brains go through to make sense of what this relationship means.

3.6 Gaze

Although these activists are representing themselves as helpless, they are doing one thing, and that is posting on tumblr. They do this through the pictures of themselves on tumblr. I noticed a pattern right away of the gaze of the participants in these pictures. “When represented participants look at the viewer, vectors, formed by participants’ eyelines, connect the participants with the viewer. Contact is established, even if it is only on an imaginary level” (Kress Gunther & van Leeuwen Theo, 1996). This is a demand gaze and when that connection is made it requires involvement and demands some from the viewer even if just for a split second. Not only are these participants demanding something from the viewer but also they take it a step further by being within arms reach in the picture. This is within the personal space and therefore it is harder to just turn away from. Not only that but the angle is frontal further requiring involvement. Although they are representing themselves as helpless through their discourse course they are doing something with their images and that is requiring involvement and demanding action from viewers. Below are some of the pictures from our corpus the exemplify this.

4. Conclusion

 Our findings combine to exemplify the helplessness that the 99 percent portrays.  Although their circumstances may in fact be bleak and they feel helpless, their voices can only go so far; action must be taken to combat their circumstances.  Many activists of the movement are using their voices to push for political and social change when they could be making progress through making individual changes and taking action. Activists of the Occupy Movement are representing themselves as hopeless and helpless through the language they use regarding education, finances, and employment.  Overall, most of the participants represent themselves with emotive language to describe their age, education, financial status, and employment situation.

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