Penn Sociology Colloquium Series: Angèle Christin, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Communications, Stanford University
Fields of Social Media Production: Drama and Extreme Content among Vegan Influencers
The content that circulates on social media platforms often features “drama,” or acrimonious interpersonal exchanges and inflammatory takes involving highly popular users. This article adapts field theory to examine the dynamics structuring these exchanges, which I analyze as contentious position-takings within fields of social media production, created and mediated by social media platforms. To demonstrate the relevance of this framework for the study of social media content, I draw on a qualitative study of vegan influencers on YouTube and Instagram. Two pathways shape the structuration of fields of social media production: drama, or highly publicized scandals and interpersonal conflicts between influencers; and extreme content, in which influencers and users reinforce their shared worldviews through niche and inflammatory content. I conclude by discussing the relevance of field theory for the study of social media exchanges more broadly.