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Title: Divergent masculinities : a visual rhetoric study of masculinity on Tumblr
Authors: Nair, Yoshen 
Issue Date: Jun-2018
Abstract: This study is motivated by the need for visual communication designers or graphic designers to research changes in social identity that emerge on social media. Visual communication designers must deal with transforming and proliferating social identities in order to communicate effectively with their audiences. Social media are regarded in the study as highly influential on social identity changes. This study deals with divergent masculinities as an exemplar of these social identity changes, on the social media site Tumblr. To examine divergent masculinities, the study adopts a visual rhetoric perspective on Tumblr as one social media site of masculinity diversification.

The literature review draws together social media perspectives with theoretical themes of reflexive social identity, gender, and fashion as the visual representation of masculinity. The resulting theoretical integration yields two guiding visual rhetoric concepts that inform inquiry into masculinity diversification on Tumblr: performativity and reflexivity.

A Tumblr research setting is then demarcated by observing how the Social Network Site facilitates rhetor performativity of 'fashioned' masculine image posts, and audience reflexivity to these image posts. The roles of rhetor and audience are found to switch in the transaction of visual rhetoric, where image posts are audienced and further shared from one Tumblr user wall display to another. Meta-data on Tumblr makes extensive user activity around particular images evident, so that significant indications of diverging masculinities can be discerned.

An analytical sampling strategy is then created by combining quantitative Tumblr meta-data with the theoretical themes of fashioned masculine performativity and reflexivity. This leveraged functional/theoretical analytical sampling strategy allows diversifying masculinities to be systematically identified. Five diverging masculinities are illustrated. These are regarded as exemplars of an ongoing process of masculinity diversification.

It is suggested that the research design and methodology of the study can be used to investigate other forms of changing social identity besides masculinity. This is important for visual communication designers, who need to monitor changing social identity mores and their visual expression on social media.
Description: Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Applied Arts in Graphic Design, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2018.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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