Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication & Theatre Arts


Lifespan and Digital Communication

Committee Director

Avi Santo

Committee Director

Allison Page

Committee Member

Ruth Osorio

Committee Member

Thomas Socha


We live in an era in which essential conversations occur online. Social media has become the official voice of presidents and corporations. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, uses Twitter to address public issues and make policy announcements. Similarly, alternative voices have emerged from social media and evolved into public debates, social movements, and massive mobilizations (e.g., Gerbaudo, 2012; Tufeksi, 2017). The community gathering opportunities of social media (boyd, 2011; Parks, 2010; Chambers, 2013) and the possibilities to generate collective knowledge (Jenkins, 2004) stress the necessity to continue to expand the research in digital spaces.

It is important that society and researchers listen to marginalized voices that are seeking empowerment by their use of social media. This thesis seeks to advance this area of research by conducting a discourse analysis of tweets and comments about sexuality, from a community on Twitter that self-identifies as disabled (Disabled Twitter). In this thesis, I conceptualize Disabled Twitteras a counterpublic and argue that their conversations about sexuality are activist and citizenship claims. I analyze tweets from two different readings: a neoliberal and a queer. I pose a neoliberal approach that demands inclusion into our current model, and a queer approach that seeks to reimage a disabled identity apart from the ideas of normalcy. Finally, although these contradictions might seem infructuous, I suggest that these are starting points to reformulate more productive discourses to contest ableist conceptions of bodies and sexualities.

While this study only considers two vantage points, these conversations have the potential to be explored from other perspectives. This study is an invitation to expand research at the intersections of disability and sexuality taking place online, and also a call to consider how this participation in digital spaces has the potential to transcend to offline settings.


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