Users’ encounter with normative discourses on Facebook: A three-pronged analysis of user agency as power structure, nexus and reception

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This study asks whether users’ encounter with normative discourses of lifestyle, consumption, and health on social media such as Facebook gives rise to agency. The theoretical framework draws on reception analysis, for its implied, but central interest in agency that lies at the intersection of texts and audiences. Based on a critique of the “participatory paradigm,” a paradigm that situates the locus of agency in the structural opposition between senders and users, in the norms of rational deliberation or in the figure of the activist, gaps are identified which can be filled by adopting an explicit focus on the socio-cultural practices of ordinary audiences in their encounters with media discourses. The study investigates user agency on seven Facebook groups and pages with the help of a three-pronged perspective based on the notion of the media–audience relationship as (1) power structure, (2) nexus, and (3) reception. The analysis reveals that the structure at play on these Facebook groups and pages does not encourage user agency. However, user agency manifests itself through user interactions and expressive sense-making processes associated with reception. The benefits of such audience agency are a public, collective, and communicative sense-making process and an expansion of the professionally controlled text.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Media + Society
Issue number4
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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