New media is a joke : tracing irony, satire, and remediation in online discourse
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The social and political function of humor in any era is to provide commentary, insight, and catharsis into the concerns facing that time. In this dissertation I investigate the role humor, particularly irony and satire, plays in informing public discourse and civic participation in the contemporary Internet age. This age is often characterized a highly mediated one with the proliferation of increasingly powerful, and increasingly mobile, media an ongoing concern of communication scholars. Understanding how these new forms refashion public discourse to address new contexts is important. In order to understand these differences it is necessary to understand how newer media work in relation to older media. I contend this relationship can be understood through the trope of irony. More importantly irony shares a relationship to the rhetorical process of remediation, whereby newer media are placed in a dialectic relationship with older media. For rhetorical and media scholars these relationships represent an opportunity to understand new possibilities for discursive action. This dissertation provides answers to three questions. What is the relationship between irony and remediation? How can mediated texts of humor illustrate the relationships between irony and remediation? What rhetorical implications might these relationships have for communication scholars interested in civic engagement, political participation, and mass mediated public discourse?I argue that remediation, the underlying rhetorical structure of media, is ironic. This structure is best revealed through analysis of highly mediated humorous texts. To answer these questions I conduct a rhetorical analysis of several case studies using irony and remediation as guiding theoretical mechanisms. Each case study focuses on a text characterized as ironic, though not necessarily humorous. I illustrate how irony contributes to the creation of multiple, and often contradictory, meanings in a text while remediation illustrates how media forms influence the creation of increasingly fragmented texts. When combined in a rhetorical analysis these mechanisms work to reveal underlying ideological concerns prevalent in public discourse in an age of new media. The significance of these concerns, and their relationship to irony, satire, and humor is discussed.