Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mariaelena Bartesaghi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christopher McRae, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Camilla Vásquez, Ph.D.


internet, metadiscourse, multimodality, narrative, online communication, rules


My research examines the communicative practices by which fans of the entertainment brand Rooster Teeth (RT)—with millions of members around the world engaged with one another through in-person meetups, as well as a variety of digital spaces — constitute community. I study these moments in communication in terms of sites of engagement, or real-time windows where actions occur through the intersection of people, mediational means, and social practices. My research is important for a contemporary understanding of communities, as well as being critical in considering how our online and offline practices are inextricably tied in ways we have only begun to comprehend. The implications of this research are far-reaching, and the findings can serve as a foundation for understanding the search for belonging and community-making in the modern world. My research encourages a dialogue about community, globalization, technology, language, and commodification.

My data-set is comprehensive and representative of the practices I analyze. It includes: interviews with 10 RT members; 22 Facebook posts and 379 comments; 11 Tweets and 467 comments; and 28 posts on the RT website. I have also completed more than 200 hours of field research by monitoring a variety of social media accounts and taking note of trends in postings, as well as attending in-person RT events such as content screenings, live events, community meetups, and the annual convention, RTX.

To capture communication in all its richness, I approach my research multimodally. To analyze my data, I draw on multimodal discourse analysis (MDA), examining how text, language, images, videos, GIFs, and other semiotic resources are the means for the materialization of community. This approach allows me to examine how different social practices, social identities, times, and spaces converge, orienting people to take specific actions. I focus my analysis on how members draw on the cultural tools of narratives, rules, and regulations, and markers of membership to (re)create community.

This dissertation concludes with ideas for considering the significance of defining a community and the problematic ways in which people discuss the connections between online and offline interactions. I urge caution when adopting certain metaphors to define our realities. We should consider how communities are (re)constructed through our mundane, everyday communication, which involves both technical and situated affordances and constraints. This conversation becomes essential as we look toward a future filled with the continued proliferation of modern technologies for communication and, therefore, community-making. Further, I highlight how more and more companies are engaging in increasingly interpersonal “relationships” through social media with people buying their products, fostering communities around brands. I argue the need for ethical considerations and practices in light of this commodification of community.

Included in

Communication Commons