Communication ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-13-2020


In interrogating a political propaganda campaign carried out on social media platforms, I argue that the political economic practices of platforms, fueled by an (inter)action of human networks and technological networks, underscore the significance of communicative tactics, the strategic use of language, and user labor that drive political and economic projects. In an analysis that focuses on the discourse of memes used to support a Trump national imaginary, the dissemination of its content and the construction of meaning via user labor on social media platforms, intensifies, strengthens, and emboldens political projects and platform logics that affectively buttress political propaganda.

The analytical moments in question focus on memes that were propagated via social media platforms that communicated a hard preference for Donald Trump. With Trump as the center of attention and as a signifier of political possibilities, I interrogate a relationship between a sentiment of technological utopianism that is built into the rhetoric of social media platforms as a supposed space of open communication against the strategic use of language that encourages user labor via user participation in order to propagate content. As such, language is always a sight of meaning construction via human networks that exploits their existential economic structural properties via their technological networks. These fluid moments of communication blur the boundaries between language as social act, language as foundational to the economic mechanism of platforms, and language as part of a political project that drives it all. Therefore, the examination of language presents the ability to argue for how ideology is (re)produced at two distinct levels: 1) strategically, in the discourse conveyed by the memes; and 2) structurally by the inherent capitalist logic propelling those platforms.

In paying attention to who says what, to whom, and for what purposes, memes present an ample opportunity to analyze how the discursive and symbolic construction on Internet content influences the way in which it circulates across the (inter)acting networks of networks. Moreover, in paying attention to how language is used to describe an ideological worldview, while also paying attention to how it encourages users to act upon that worldview, social media platforms connect social interaction as an action of propagation that exacerbates and expands the commodification of diverse social processes and spheres of life. The collection, use, and storage of data that is crucial to platform logics is contingent on the ability of users to contribute to the imaginative possibilities through an age of distributed media.




Social media, memes, national imaginary, political economy, affective media, platforms

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Marco Briziarelli

Second Committee Member

Dr. Susana Martinez Guillem

Third Committee Member

Dr. Ilia Rodriguez

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Owen Whooley