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Hashtag Publics

The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks


Edited By Nathan Rambukkana

This collection investigates the publics of the hashtag. Taking cues from critical public sphere theory, contributors are interested in publics that break beyond the mainstream – in other publics. They are interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres.
Hashtags are deictic, indexical – yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
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Chapter Nine: #FuckProp8: How Temporary Virtual Communities around Politics and Sexuality Pop Up, Come Out, Provide Support, and Taper Off


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#FuckProp8: How Temporary Virtual Communities around Politics and Sexuality Pop Up, Come Out, Provide Support, and Taper Off



Online communities are supposed to last. In fact, a typical academic would consider a virtual community that has gone inactive as a failed one. Past research on digital communities regularly emphasizes thriving practices and survival strategies for keeping such communities vibrant and lively (Baym, 1999; Fox, 2004; Howard, 2010). In contrast, I take a different approach to online communities that have gone inactive: I interpret the stasis of communities on the Internet as a healthy, logical, and even anticipated stage of event-based online communities. From my perspective, some online communities are supposed to endure only temporarily.

In this chapter, I examine a specific event-based case to illustrate the temporality of online communities that arise, cohere, and then taper into stasis. Through focusing on virtual communities whose longevity is tied to a particular event, I address an underresearched area of online community scholarship, namely, those characterized as temporary. For my case study, I chose opposition to Proposition 8, legislation that banned same-sex marriage in California (Liptak, 2013). I analyze how politics and sexuality are intertwined with discourse and identity through communities organized by Twitter hashtags. I also discuss how these online ← 127 | 128 → communities contribute to a counterpublic whose discourses concurrently featured acceptance for nonmainstream sexuality while challenging anti-queer legislation (Milioni, 2009).

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