Honors in CDS – Spring 2021

Congratulations to the following CDS majors who graduated with Honors in Spring 2021. They have done impressive work- see their abstracts below, and we will link their projects from Eagle Scholar soon.

Abstract: There is a gap in research about political discourse taking place on the social media platform TikTok. Traditionally, the public saw this platform as trivial and less important than other platforms because of its young user base. With the increase of political videos on this platform within the past few years, scholars are now beginning to observe this platform more seriously. This study aims to recognize how TikTok influences political discourse. A content analysis examined 500 videos under the hashtags, “politics” (10.0 B views), “conservative” (6.9 B views), “republican” (7.0 B views), “Trump” (7.2 B views) “democrat” (4.2 B views) and “leftist” (2.3 B views). The researcher made two accounts to engage with left-leaning and right-leaning videos separately. The results showed that creators on the platform made videos that lead to the further polarization of political parties. The results also suggest that TikTok’s algorithm creates online echo chambers, leading to users becoming radicalized on either side of the political spectrum.

Abstract: This paper explores the ways individuals choose to self present, why people self present and how to apply those strategies of self presentation and impression management to a user’s LinkedIn profile. There are multiple ways in which people self present. Some of those include self presentation strategies and involve the use of impression management. The communication field has done extensive research on the topic and has come to the conclusion that people self present as a form of self expression and is motivated to fulfill a personal need. In this paper I go into detail on the specifics of self presentation strategies and explain the best ways to self present on LinkedIn.

Abstract: With the internet becoming more and more available to younger people, certain risks begin to present themselves. Parasocial interaction and relationships have been around since before the internet, however instances of it have increased due to social media apps like YouTube. This study seeks to analyze the relationship between predatory grooming techniques and parasocial relationships between YouTubers and fans. In order to do this, I use a content analysis to look at how the popular beauty YouTuber James Charles used his platform in order to cultivate parasocial relationships with underaged fans and send sexual messages to them. I analyze his top ten YouTube videos and comments left on those videos to distinguish common features that may contribute to fans developing a parasocial relationship with him. I also look at his 2021 sexting scandal in order to analyze the connection between the parasocial relationships Charles’ underaged fans create with him and the accusations those same underaged fans made about him grooming them. 

Abstract: With the more prolific rise of influencers on social media platforms, companies are taking advantage of the influencer marketing strategy to advertise their products. Influencer marketing, defined generally, is a form of social media marketing with the integration of product placement by people with large social followings. As a result of the rise of influencer marketing, and the popularity of social media use, the use of influencer marketing is beneficial when considering brand communication and company revenue. This article analyzes three Instagram influencers through the examination of common themes and marketing language. Additionally, the ethical and legal implications, visual appeal, and return on investments are discussed. This study will also explore companies who advertise through influencers on Instagram and their generated growth from their social media marketing to best calculate the financial benefits of using influencer marketing. This research is beneficial in order to best understand the benefits of using influencers to market a company’s product and the impact of social media marketing on the company’s revenue.

Abstract: In this research paper I articulate three common themes and motives in the popular MTV show Catfish: The TV Show. By conducting a rhetorical criticism on the show, I employ the research question, “What are some emerging themes and motives demonstrated in different episodes of Catfish?” In this paper, I uncover themes which reveal anxieties about digital technology, human vulnerability, and the convention that ‘the reveal’ transcends reality TV and human connection. I work towards connecting these themes across three specific episodes of the show Catfish and I engage in how the online phenomena of ‘catfishing’ is still prevalent today in this developing digital age and uncover ways that audiences can be familiar with and recognize certain motives that catfishes might have so we can prevent being victims to these unfortunate situations.

Abstract: This Rhetorical Criticism investigated and critiqued the rhetoric of fan culture on the social media platform Twitter. Twitter is a popular social media platform used for people to communicate with each other, and it is a useful tool for fans to interact with their favorite celebrity in a way that was not possible before. I picked three celebrities from sports, music, and film and tracked fan accounts dedicated to them. The celebrities I used are NBA basketball star LeBron James, the popular boy band One Direction, and the American actor Chris Evans. In doing this, I answered the question; how do the interactions between fans on Twitter differ between fandoms? In doing this research, I found common themes of humor, memes, fan art, activism, politics, and updates on celebrities. The purpose of this analysis was to discuss and compare how three major celebrity fandoms in the genres of sports, music, and movies interact and communicate with one another. In this paper, I argued that examining the history of fandoms, their impact on social media, and the communities fandoms form is key in understanding the rhetoric of followers within fandoms.

Abstract: Five years after the UMW men’s rugby team was suspended for a violent and misogynistic chant, I am writing about whether the school has fully reckoned with the rugby team’s culture of sexual hostility. The school has mandated sexual harassment training for all athletes, hired a Title IX expert, and settled a lawsuit with Feminists United Club, which sued the school in 2015 for failing to protect members from more than 700 harassing messages over the anonymous app Yik Yak. The club was met with violent rape and death threats following their criticism of the rugby team’s chant. But, as a student, I am still warned to avoid rugby parties – I think that the toxic culture that existed five years ago has not entirely disappeared, and the school seems more focused on polishing its reputation instead of holding an open dialogue about what happened.

Abstract: Lil Nas X is a gay, black artist who is succeeding across multiple genres. His first number one hit was a mix of country and trap, including elements of black culture. The second was a mix of hip hop and pop, showcasing elements of queer culture. Lil Nas X is a special case study because he is a black queer man succeeding in the mainstream. Using ideological criticism, I identify that black pride and gay pride are driving him in his work and public persona. His success pushes against dominant ideologies and forces people who consume mainstream content to acknowledge experiences they may not have been confronted with before. While Lil Nas X is not the first artist to address black or queer themes in their work, he is the first to do so with such a large platform. His work will have lasting impacts on the communities he represents.
Abstract: As a long time member of the video game community, personal experience reveals that women within the competitive gaming scene are regularly faced with sexual harassment and aggression from their male counterparts. The purpose of this study is to explore why this environment results in these forms of hostility towards women. This study utilizes mixed methodology. I pull examples from my own experience, and perform a content analysis of documented incidents of aggression against other women in the community. Findings reveal that factors such as the hypermasculinity of gaming culture, and men’s ideological dominance over women are both contributors to creating this sexist environment. Although there are a number of coping strategies in dealing with harassment, the solutions to these problems lies in engaging more men in the prevention of violence against women. What began as a video game communication discourse study, has evolved into an exploration of how male ideologies inform behavior and feelings towards women, and examining how these issues manifest in the digital realm.