Christopher Shosted ’20
"The Rhetorics of Healthcare on Reddit: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Online Right-Wing Communities"
Hometown: Allentown, PA and Salt Lake City, Utah
Project Advisor: Dr. Crystal Fodrey
Briefly describe your project.
For my project, I collected comments and posts discussing healthcare reform from the website Reddit.com. Specifically, I looked at forums that identified with support of a right-wing political ideology or figure. I then analyzed that data using critical discourse analysis techniques and rhetorical theory to understand the underlying assumptions shared between these ideologies.
Describe the origin of your project.
After taking a class with Dr. Fodrey, she recommended the SOAR program as a way to continue to develop my research skills. After that recommendation, I considered several ways to apply rhetorical scholarship to the healthcare and consulted with Dr. Fodrey and professor Mikovits to develop a proposal for the SOAR committee.
What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?
The best part about working with Dr. Fodrey has been the opportunity to discuss this particular data set with her. During our weekly meetings, we would talk about the data, how it relates to what has been written about similar discourse communities, and how I could contribute to the larger academic discussions that have been developing. Without Dr. Fodrey’s advice and guidance, I would not have been to stay focused on one topic
What has been your biggest obstacle so far?
I would say that the largest issue has been trying to maintain my own emotional wellbeing during this project. Online discourse, particularly discourse focused on political issues, can be emotionally taxing due to the level of rancor involved. From working on this project, I’ve learned to compartmentalize my research from other parts of my life so that negativity wouldn’t bleed into my other relationships.
What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?
I’ve learned so much from SOAR that it’s hard to pick just one takeaway from this summer, but I would say that having the opportunity to apply rhetorical theory to active communicative situations has been an eye-opening experience. It’s one thing to read the literature and try to imagine how it applies to real-world situations, but it’s a different experience to see people behaving in ways that correspond to the literature.
What was the result of your project?
Because of the nature of this project, it’s too early to report any results. But I can say that analyzing this data has given me a new way of understanding the healthcare debate. There are far more social gears turning that influence this debate than many, myself included, realize.
In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?
In some ways, I am humbled by this opportunity. I plan to pursue graduate degrees following my time at Moravian, and the Soar program has given me a taste of what academic research outside of the classroom is like. I feel like this project has revealed to me the types of research I can pursue later on in my career and how to apply those skills to situations outside of academia.
Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, how?
Now that I have a better understanding of the field of rhetorical studies and political discourse in general, I plan to continue analyzing this data I’ve collected through an Honors project here at Moravian. There’s still so much to understand about these rhetors and their communication, and I want to provide a prescriptive method to argue for social progress in a way that makes sense for people who hold right-wing ideologies.
Have you, or do you plan to present this research outside the SOAR presentations?
There are no plans to present to this research to an audience outside of Scholars Day here at Moravian. But I do want to continue this research and develop it into articles for publication in academic journals.