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Participatory Culture, Community, and Play

Learning from Reddit

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Adrienne L. Massanari

What does online community look like in the age of social networking? How do participatory culture platforms reflect both their designers’ intentions and the desires of their users? In this incisive and timely work, Adrienne L. Massanari discusses how culture is created and challenged on Reddit.com, the self-proclaimed «front page of the internet». Reddit enables the sharing of original and reposted content from around the web, and provides a platform for like-minded individuals to commune around topics of interest – everything from the joys of drinking beer in a shower (/r/showerbeer) to celebrating the pleasures of tidy penmanship (/r/penmanshipporn). Massanari’s ethnographic work provides a detailed examination of the contradictions that shape Reddit’s culture and how they reflect its role as an epicenter of geek culture. The book explores the ways in which community on Reddit is formed and solidified through play and humor, and the complex ways in which Redditors come together, which demonstrate a deep capacity for altruism and charitable giving, but can easily lapse into mob action. It also explores the community’s troubling gender and racial politics and how some Redditors are carving out their own space on the site to fight back.
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Chapter 1. Introduction

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INTRODUCTION

If the internet is made of cats,1 reddit.com (reddit) is its temple. Like most redditors, I cannot recall precisely how I first heard about the site—just as I cannot imagine my online life without it. I am sure I started visiting it semi-regularly in 2008/2009, mostly for the cat pictures. At the time, I was fascinated by LOLcat humor (Shifman, 2014) and was looking for other spaces online where people shared my fascination. I was pleased to find a group of witty, interesting, like-minded individuals (and some jerks, of course). So basically, I came to reddit because of cats. I stayed for the community.

This is a book about a particular online space—reddit—at a particular time (2011–2014). But more than that, this is a book about how members of online, participatory platforms experience these spaces, how their experiences are shaped by the ways in which they are designed, and how these spaces embody certain contradictions that remain underexplored by scholars and journalists. This book is intended for anyone interested in issues around participatory culture, gender, play, and identity and is meant for both new media scholars and those with just an interest in how we live our lives online now.

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