Hacktivists in Politics: Framing Political Involvement of Computer Subcultures

In this project, I will compare the media framings of politically-active hackers and hacktivists in the United States and in China.  I will examine the differing concepts of “patriotic hackers” and “hacktivists” as framed by the mainstream media in both countries.  I am particularly interested in the political value being assigned to the actions of the hackers and hacktivists, and whether their actions are viewed as political speech and of value to the state or viewed as subversive and criminal acts that threaten the state and its citizens.

Research questions
1.    What are the common media frames of Anonymous’s participation and amplification of Occupy Wall Street?  In what ways has OWS become associated with Anonymous and vice versa?  How does this association affect the perceived political speech value of OWS and Anonymous?
2.    How are patriotic hackers viewed by the media in China?  How does the image of a patriotic hacker in China different from that of a hacktivist in the United States?  Are their actions viewed as political speech or as a different type of action?

Research methods
I will be looking at ideological framing mechanisms in use in the popular media coverage of Anonymous’s participation in OWS and patriotic hacking activities in China.  To fully explore these issues, I will be looking at the rhetorical tools employed in news coverage, including specific linguistic choices, accompanying images, and overall narrative structure of the news coverage.  I will also be looking at reader comments and discussion when possible to help gauge the public response to the frame presented by news sources.

Using sources like JSTOR, Lexis Nexus, and Chinese news databases to identify relevant articles, I will read and analyze the individual articles.  After establishing relevant categories and variables, I will code the corpus into a spreadsheet for the analysis of broader trends.

3/20: complete project proposal
3/28: identify article corpus
4/3: initial analysis of dataset, initial coding
4/11: complete outline including abstract, preliminary findings, and literature review due
4/25: first full draft due
5/16: final presentation/final draft due


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