From courtroom to chatroom: the online social movement to free the "West Memphis Three"

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University of Alabama Libraries

The technology supporting social media has become so widespread it now permeates every aspect of culture in the United States and beyond. The use of social media has become so ubiquitous in our daily lives, we often overlook its impact on us. However, one of the most potent venues for social media use is in the arena of the public sphere by organizations, groups, or individuals attempting to resist or to change the social order. Through a rhetorical analysis of the social media efforts of the Free "The West Memphis Three" movement, this study investigates the rhetorical tools utilized by the online discourse of the movement to redress a grievance of the United States criminal justice system in the state of Arkansas. Furthermore, through rhetorical analysis and social movement theory, this study codifies some qualities of rhetorical discourse specifically evident in the social media realm. The aim of this study is to provide a better understanding of what qualifies as "social movement discourse," in the social media realm, as well as of the dynamics of social media, rhetoric, and social movement in general. The foundation this study provides should enable future scholars to consider more fully the potency social media hold in bringing about both cultural change and serious challenges to the social order.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Communication, Web studies, Social research