Organizing and Identification within /r/TheRedPill: The Communicative Constitution of Organizational Identity Online

2019-08-13T18:17:56Z (GMT) by Sean M Eddington
Online gendered collectivities like the Manosphere (an online collection of blogs, forums, and chat spaces devoted to shedding light on perceived social misandry) have provided opportune spaces for regressive forms of gendered organizing to occur. These spaces offer individuals an online network of safe spaces dedicated to antifeminism, misogyny, and pick-up artistry. While Manosphere networks have gained attention with their connections to the emerging Alt-Right activism online, these spaces have been legitimized in and throughout specific social networking platforms. For instance, sites like Reddit (dubbed the ‘Internet Culture Laboratory’) have become known as a hotbed of misogynist behaviors fostered and shared on comment threads and its subcommunities (known as subreddits).

Whereas previous scholarship pertaining to the Manosphere and The Red Pill have described the larger technocultural spaces that contribute to an increasingly toxic online world, less studied is how these organizations are organized—particularly with a focus on gendered organizing. SubReddits may adopt and take organizational forms wherein organizing occurs primarily through communicative engagement between users in the spaces (e.g., sharing posts, commenting on posts, and supporting some ideas over others through Reddit’s ‘upvote’ currency system). Over time, spaces like The Red Pill are networked, enacted, and organized. With an aim of understanding how organizational identity is organized and enacted on The Red Pill’s subreddit, this study analyzed the Top 100 posts of all time (over 35,000 comments and roughly 6,000 pages of text data) from The Red Pill to understand how conversations and content enacted a masculine organizational identity.

Using a multi-level analysis, this dissertation examines members’ text-based engagement, the social network, and types of roles influencers adopt to construct an organizational identity for r/TheRedPill. Using the comment threads from the Top 100 posts of all time, text mining and semantic networks were generated to understand how members of r/TheRedPill construct meanings and concepts focused on the organizational identity of the space. Second, using social network analyses, this dissertation illustrated the networks of influence of central users within r/TheRedPill. With a goal of understanding the roles that central users adopted, the dissertation adopted an online observation of the space to create a typology of leadership roles within r/TheRedPill. The findings uncovered three distinct contradictory themes focused on masculinity, sexual activity, and backlash that were central to organizing in The Red Pill. In addition to these three themes, the social network analysis and observation revealed distinct roles that influencers adopted to promote the organizational identity of r/TheRedPill.

Theoretically, the dissertation contributes to the Communicative Constitution of Organizing online by showcasing how the interconnections between conversations around gender, sexual activity, and backlash ‘scale up’ to construct a gendered organizational identity. Methodologically, this dissertation utilizes multiple levels of analysis to investigate online organizational activity. Pragmatically, these findings help provide a rich portrait of alternative forms of gendered organizing that occurs online. Future directions include examining the broader Red Pill network on Reddit, as well as examining contrastive spaces (e.g., r/TheBluePill or r/ThePurplePill) to investigate how members’ discursive engagement organizes and constitutes organizational activity as a response to r/TheRedPill.