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Feminist cyberdialogics: speech-action and online community: a case study

By Inga Sniukaite


This thesis explores online sociability practices in a discussion website for feminist activists in Central and Eastern Europe. It examines the constitution of identity, community and social action focusing on interactive, generic, technological, and discursive context of online communication. The project draws its methods from action research framework and virtual ethnography, and investigates key themes of the thesis through designing an online discussion forum and participating in its collective discussions. Its analytical strategy is informed by sociolinguistic approaches which perceive language as relational, dialogic and encompassing action. Drawing on a variety of theoretical frameworks, including Bakhtin's philosophy of language, speech act theory, contemporary approaches to genre studies, feminist theory and praxis debates, cyberfeminism and actor network theory, I analyze identity, community, and feminist action as sites of social action shaped by interactive exchanges, generic forms of communication, technology, and feminist discourse. On the one hand, I interrogate how commonsense/popular feminism constructs online feminist action and agency, and on the other how the textual/discursive/virtual context of the Internet challenges and has the potential to shift the understanding of these terms. I argue that on the new terrain of the Internet, speech and action have been reconfigured and that the modernist understanding of embodied action and self determined subjectivity that informs traditional action research as well as activist strategies has to shift. This thesis further argues that certain strands of radical feminism constitute a common rhetorical place through which the participants negotiate their identity, authority, the terms of membership and articulate action in an international and virtual speech community. It describes these 'common places' as idiomatic feminism and implies that they function as a metanarrative/ meta-political commonsense that crosses international borders. This thesis points to\vard the need to rethink questions of action and agency on the Internet and become more attuned to the rhetorical-material-discursive context of their production

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