Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication and Information

Major Professor

Suzie Allard

Committee Members

Carolyn Hank, Bharat Mehra, Tamar Shirinian


The 2018 West Virginia teachers’ strike exemplifies the changing shape of social movements and events of dissent and protest in the digital age. The use of information communication technologies (ICT) and social media have changed the ways such events develop and unfold. These technologies offer new tools for organizing and strategizing, for generating large numbers of participants, and for communicating crucial information while reducing temporal and spatial barriers. The teachers’ strike presents an opportunity to increase our understandings of these issues and to widen the scope of research in the field of information sciences to include the impact of ICTs on the social world. Further, the location of West Virginia within the region of Appalachia means that additional questions regarding the role of collective identity in social movements can be explored in the context of a state with an extensive history and heritage of labor movements.

Through in-depth interviews conducted with teachers who participated, this study takes a critical approach to understanding the role of social media in the 2018 strike, the significance of social media to the outcomes of the strike, and the importance of an Appalachian collective identity in the event. The qualitative data is presented in a creative and unconventional way that highlights the voices of the teachers and richly illustrates the complexities of their individual perspectives.

This work operates from an understanding that a standardized and positivistic approach to social scientific inquiry is unhelpful for making sense of the contradictions, complications, and uncertainties found in the personal experiences of the West Virginia strike. As a critique of modernist and overly rationalistic understanding of the world and of academic research, it serves instead as a call for an understanding that we are shaped by forces that are larger than human reason and that are wholly subjective but no less powerful.

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