Towards a Networked Demography? A case study of gender countercultures on Reddit

Leo Stewart, Emma Spiro


While there is much existing work on online cultures and conflicting ideologies, little work has examined how multiple groups with conflicting worldviews coexist on the same platform, particularly at meso and macro scales. Specifically, we identify a research gap in disentangling the technological, social, and informational dynamics of cultural production in networked spaces. This work examines communities with conflicting gender cultures on Reddit—specifically using feminist, trans and gender nonconforming, and manosphere discourse as vantage points—as they move within and across the network of subreddits. We use shared moderator ties between subreddits as a heuristic for community ties; metadata hyperlinks to trace subreddit geneology; and shared search keyword ties to understand how Reddit's search algorithm interacts with social structures to form a digital ecosystem. From here, we explore the possibility of using a "demographic" perspective to study life, death, and movement of networked digital communities. In particular, we focus on the potential of the network lens to address limitations of the traditional demographic lens by preserving nuance, promoting self-definition of individuals and communities, and conceiving of social identity as relational and embedded within a cultural context.

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