Date of Award

4-29-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

School Name

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Communication

Major Advisor

Dr. Kyle Barnett

Second Advisor

Dr. Moira O'Keeffe

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy Lein

Abstract

This study explores the reactions of ideologically divergent social media users to so-called “inspiration porn,” or mediated images of physically disabled persons doing ordinary—or extraordinary—activities, relegating those depicted to vehicles for the emotional or spiritual gratification of nondisabled or typically able (or, among disabled observers, differently so) persons. This is important because although a quarter of American adults identify as living with a disability themselves, ableism remains very internalized; others’ experience is still very voyeuristic when presented in this medium. The objective of this study is to describe an approximate correlation—either positive or negative—between the popularity of inspiration porn and the social identities of those adults who consume it. The goal is to understand, through the lenses of Erving Goffman’s framing theory and Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, how inspiration porn not only confirms but also contradicts concepts of what it means to be a political conservative or a political liberal in America. These theories are discussed with a view to define the efficacy of inspiration porn’s intended function on social media users, even threatening their most inviolable identities of political ideology, religion, education, and disability. Results suggest that, despite the majority of respondents skewing liberal, agnostic or atheist, college educated, and having no personal disability experience, those who consistently interacted with inspiration porn media the most exhibited a tendency to favor conservative politics, espouse evangelical Christianity, lack college education, and have an experience of disability—either in themselves, someone close to them, or both.

Available for download on Tuesday, August 31, 2021

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