How QAnon constructs alternate facts
How does QAnon build and elaborate on its core theory? Alice Marwick and William Partin released a preprint of their upcoming New Media & Society paper exploring QAnon as a participatory culture and digging into how Anons build knowledge.
What they find builds on Francesca Tripodi’s work on scriptural interference as a form of close textual reading borrowed from biblical study practices and applied to other texts. Applying those practices to a wide variety of texts, participants propose connections—and reject interpretations that contradict established community knowledge or stretch these interpretive practices too far.
The result is a new form of populist expertise complete with its own distinct canon, core texts, and established research practices. Any attempt to counter specific components of the QAnon theory or convince individual participants to leave the community must contend with how these layers of process and participation reinforce the ‘knowledge’ Anons create.
NBC News’s Brandy Zadrozny called the work “smart insight” and expressed appreciation for the research work of “deep hanging out”. Shannon McGregor noted that “not all participation is normatively good,” while Marwick summed it up in an interview with Tech Policy Press: “rather than just looking to increase interaction, if social platforms truly care about democracy, they’re going to have to prioritize different things than simple engagement. What does a successful online community look like? This is a question that, I suspect, the research teams at social platforms already know the answer to – it’s just whether or not platforms will focus on that over making money.”
Publications and appearances
“Mis- and disinformation spreads across cultural, socio-linguistic, and geographic contexts and impacts communities differently according to pre-existing power structures and unequal distributions of informational resources.” In the HKS Misinformation Review, researchers from CITAP and the Center for an Informed Public summarized their research into mis- and disinformation campaigns that circulate in Asian diasporas and share common observations and case studies from their work. Next week’s newsletter will showcase their recommendations.
“The conviction that researchers who, for example, promote vaccination are hiding conflicts of interest ‘allows people to feel like they’re on a high horse, and it triggers moral outrage,’ Marwick says. They may come to see scientists as ‘bad people who must be stopped for the good of the world.’” Science published a survey of Covid-19 researchers in which 38% reported having been harassed or threatened based on their work.
Affiliate Kirsten Eddy co-authored a Reuters Institute survey on on race and leadership in journalism. The study analyzed the presence of non-white top editors in news media in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the US, and UK. They find that “in every single country covered, the percentage of non-white people in the general population is much higher than it is among top editors.”
On Monday, the Hussman Media Justice Series hosted Eric Garcia, the author of We’re Not Broken: Chaning the Autism Conversation. A recording of his talk is available on the CITAP YouTube channel.
“Humor is always a commentary on what a society finds normal and what it finds deviant.” Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote about Jane Campion and the Williams sisters.
March 31, 12pm: Francesca Tripodi joins a conversation on “Every Data Point Tells a Story,” hosted by the University of Virginia’s School of Data Science.
April 7, 3:30pm: The CITAP spring speaker series continues with a talk from Andre Brock, author of Distributed Blackness. Register to attend in person or save the livestream link!
April 14-15: The Center for Media Engagement and the Media and Democracy Data Cooperative are hosting the Digital Data Conference. On Day One, Deen Freelon will join a panel conversation on emerging digital data tools, and on Day Two, Meredith Pruden will facilitate a conversation about approaches to data ethics.
April 15: deadline to apply for the Cleary Prize for student research on media law and policy:
April 21, 3:30pm: The CITAP spring speaker series will feature Jonathan Ong. RSVP and livestream links to come.
April 28, 5:30pm: MIT Libraries are hosting an evening with Tressie McMillan Cottom. The event will be hybrid, with a livestream available.