Date of Award

8-2003

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sociology

Committee Members

Thomas C. Hood, Suzanne B. Kurth, Sherry Cable, Handel

Abstract

This dissertation is a case study analysis of the straightedge youth subculture on an Internet bulletin board system (forum), located on the worldwide web between September 2001 and May 2003. Ethnographic methods, including participant observation, e-focus groups, in-depth interviews, and qualitative content analysis are used to collect relevant data. Concepts from subcultural theory, identity and social identity/categorization theory are used throughout my analysis of the Straight Edge Discussion Forum to highlight cultural and social-psychological aspects of subculturally-based behavior and identity. Substantive chapters are divided as follows. First, the types of subcultural information available to subculture members and visitors of the straightedge website under investigation are described. Second, data are presented to demonstrate how three subcultural processes – style displays, affiliation, and boundary maintenance – occur through textual interaction in the forum. Third, I demonstrate that straightedge subculture is not comprised of a homogenous group, but rather of different member types. These member types are based on whether one uses the Internet to supplement participation in face-to-face straightedge culture versus reliance on the Internet as the sole means of subcultural participation. Fourth, subcultural norms are shown to be negotiated and contested through textual interaction between forum participants. The analysis informs sociological knowledge in three areas. It provides more detailed knowledge of straightedge by deconstructing the taken-for-granted meanings attached to subcultural norms. It suggests that the Internet serves as both medium and resource for subculturalists. Lastly, it shows how identity theory and social identity/categorization theories can be used in tandem to better illuminate subcultural identity processes.

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