Passionate Affinity Spaces on Reddit.com: Learning Practices in the Gluten-free Subreddit

Introduction

Beginning with the popularity of Usenet discussion groups, the Internet has dramatically increased our ability to make connections with others. In today’s Web 2.0 environment,1 online collaboration thrives through activities like blogging, social media, fan sites, and discussion forums. The lattermost, in particular, have proliferated as organizations and individuals seek to provide a place for people who share similar interests or experiences to commiserate and learn from one another. Reddit.com is one such space in which users can supplement their existing knowledge of a particular topic through a social exchange of information. Through participation in smaller interest groups, Reddit users engage in informal learning practices akin to those described in Gee and Hayes’s passionate affinity spaces.2 Furthermore, by utilizing digital media to consume and produce information that is shared with the group, individuals distribute knowledge and strengthen the collective literacy of the affinity space.3

This article begins with a discussion of the general characteristics of the Reddit community and online affinity spaces, followed by a description of the specific functions of the “glutenfree” Subreddit. The author then analyzes a selection of posts within the Subreddit to identify the major themes present in the communication, which help to affirm its status as an online affinity space.

What is Reddit?

Reddit is an open-source online community bulletin board where users, or Redditors, vote to promote or downvote certain content, which causes that content to become more or less visible to other users. To further engage the community, all posts are also open to comments, allowing for an often-lengthy exchange between users. Comments can also be up or downvoted, creating a system in which users police content to align with the norms of the group. Reddit content is freely available to anyone with an Internet connection; no username is required to read the content.4 Reddit estimated nearly two million logged in Redditors on December 12, 2012, or about twenty-three percent of the approximately 8.5 million daily visitors.5

Though its original, and still main, purpose is as a social news aggregator, Reddit has experienced a resurgence in recent years as users have created niche sub-forums, or Subreddits, in which to share information on a topic of their choice. The broader Reddit community is divided into more than sixty-seven thousand of these Subreddits, 4,464 of which are active.6 Anyone with a Reddit account can create a Subreddit, most of which are interest-based, with topics running the gamut from politics, religion, pop culture, photos, and humor to the popular “todayilearned” (or “TIL”) and “IamA” communities. Users can find popular Subreddits on Reddit’s front page or by using the advanced search function to look for keywords within Subreddits. Avid users can personalize their Reddit experience by subscribing to relevant Subreddits, which are then listed on their customized front page when logged in.

Given their breadth of subject matter, from the scholarly to the creepy, popular Subreddits may amass large followings for a variety of reasons. An example of a Subreddit that is intended to provide supportive information is the gluten-free Subreddit. This Subreddit, which averages more than 5,500 readers, is a forum for people who maintain a gluten-free diet, most commonly due to “Celiac Disease, Dermatitis herpetiformis, Eosinophilic esophagitis, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, gluten ataxia, and general gluten sensitivity.”7 This Subreddit provides tips and advice for how to live gluten-free and how to avoid gluten exposure, links to medical research and reports from the mass media, as well as general support for those new to the lifestyle or dealing with a new issue.

The experience level within the gluten-free Subreddit community varies, both in terms of users’ familiarity with the gluten-free diet and the Reddit platform. Interaction between newcomers and more established, regular contributors comprises a large part of the conversation. A clear distinction exists between the posts of those new to the Subreddit—and presumably to the gluten-free lifestyle—and those who are practiced users. However, the nature of the forum is such that learning is a shared and multidirectional practice. Gluten-free Subreddit members, with the help of four moderators, have established a set of community norms that favor friendly, supportive discussion and the open access to outside supplemental resources. Critics may argue that Reddit is a vast wasteland of trivial and boorish material, but the site, in particular its Subreddits, often functions as a productive informal learning environment in which cultural and literacy practices are utilized to create meaning and build community.8

Passionate Affinity Spaces and Media Literacy Practices

Gee and Hayes note that people tend to discount informal learning because it does not involve teaching. However, the abundance of online communities or “affinity spaces” designed to bring together people with similar interests and the level of interaction between users in these spaces would indicate otherwise.9

Passionate affinity-based learning occurs when people connect because of a shared interest.10 These affinity spaces can exist offline or online, or have components of both.In online affinity spaces, users have an opportunity to share and gain information through the power of digital media. In addition to offering individual knowledge brought forth from a user’s experience or personal knowledge base, members of an online affinity space also engage in media literacy practices, in other words they “can access, analyze, evaluate, and produce information” for specific outcomes.11 This distributed knowledge is shared, which adds to the collective wisdom of the space through technology.12 The ability to harness this technology to inform is an impetus for participating in an affinity space, as it gives users a sense of self-worth.13 Gillmor notes that “[i]n the Digital Age, participation is a part of genuine literacy.”14

Unlike in a community of practice, in which newcomers to a group gradually move from legitimate peripheral participants (LPPs) to full participants,15 direct participation is not required in an affinity space. In fact, many people never directly participate at all, but rather simply “lurk” on the conversations. Lurking could be described as an activity similar to that of LPPs, without the expectation of transitioning into full participation.16 Baym asserts that the majority of members in an online space are lurkers with no intention of increasing their participation.17 Lurking is seen as an accepted practice in an affinity space, and many will utilize the space for this purpose, extracting the information they need without further engagement. Regardless of their level of participation, lurkers derive the same learning benefits Lave and Wenger assign to LPPs, most notably that they learn more about what the whole “enterprise” is about and what opportunities for engagement are available to them.18 Some lurkers will eventually increase their level of participation and become active posters and commenters, contributing regularly to the space and increasing their media literacy skills.19 However, it is not necessary that everyone achieve the same level of participation, so long as there is a small contingent whose passion and involvement help keep the space together.20 Within affinity spaces, then, there is a broad range of expertise that helps build an active dialogue between those who are “more knowing” and those who are “less knowing” of a particular topic. Because of online spaces’ interactive nature, these terms are fluid and appointed to different members of the community at different times.21

Likewise, roles of expert and novice are neither concrete nor permanent in the gluten-free Subreddit, as users shift between the two depending on the discussion topic. Thus, the learning opportunities continue even after a user has contributed for some time. The openness of an affinity space allows newcomers and experts to coexist and continue to learn from one another without the threat of displacement that often occurs in a community of practice when the newcomers gain enough experience to replace the “old-timers.”22

Characteristics of the Gluten-free Subreddit

Most gluten-related illnesses are somewhat of a mystery and can be tricky to diagnose.23 This has led many users to be frustrated by the medical community and its inability to solve their health problems, causing them to turn to the Internet with a goal of self-efficacy. A wide variety of online resources exist to fill the gap; a Google search of “gluten-free discussion group” returned 21,300 results, consisting of online communities and links to local support groups. The gluten-free Subreddit does not turn up in the first 10 pages of this search, which suggests that most people who visit this site find it through their working knowledge of the larger Reddit community.24 This Subreddit continues to grow at a slow but steady pace. An average of fifteen users are in the community at any given time and about four new posts are added each day.

The gluten-free Subreddit is used largely for sharing experiences and seeking advice and support. However, community members also help one another by sharing pertinent information beyond personal experience, which helps to create a more comprehensive body of information. Members extend their own knowledge by linking to other helpful online resources, including other discussion groups, medical research, news reported by the mass media, and recipes. By locating, assessing, and sharing these resources, community members are engaging in the literacy practices described by Moore,25 most notably the ability to extract and synthesize information from a variety of sources for productive purposes. As users spend more time in the space, then, they are learning not only how to navigate within the norms and procedures defined by the group, but also how to effectively utilize the web as a broader resource. This creates a “demand-pull” approach to learning whereby the community determines what is of value and then seeks out such information and remixes and shares it in a way that best serves its purposes.26 The understanding of the content in an affinity space is then socially constructed by the members who post and comment on it to create what Levy calls “collective intelligence.”27

This study examines the gluten-free Subreddit to evaluate its strength as an online affinity space in which informal learning takes place.Grounded Theory procedures are appropriate in describing the practices of online communities.28 Therefore, a Grounded Theory approach,29 which “aims to generate theory by grounding that theory in data rather than verify theory,”30 fit for this study. Over a period of three months, the communication contained in nearly 440 posts and their related comments was observed. The author first labeled sample posts by their content. As patterns emerged in terms of the most common topics posted, the posts were then grouped into categories. Because Reddit encourages participation through voting and commenting on content, the four posts deconstructed in this study represent the four most common categories and exemplify the posts that received the most comments and upvotes within the sample time frame.

With the four most common post types identified, the analysis focused on the qualities of the Subreddit that contribute to its culture, as identified within these posts and their related comments. Two research questions were developed to guide the analysis in terms of the Subreddit’s value as an informal learning space:

RQ1) What are the major themes present in the gluten-free Subreddit?

RQ2) What do the themes present in the gluten-free Subreddit suggest about its function as a passionate affinity space?

Decoding Four Common Post Types on the Gluten-free Subreddit

Four dominant themes make up the majority of the posts on the gluten-free Subreddit during the analysis period: (1) questions related to symptoms and personal experiences, (2) advice for educating others about gluten-related illnesses, (3) links to gluten-related articles, and (4) recipes. The most common post types reflect the stated goals of the community by fostering a supportive and enlightening dialogue. The result is a repository of helpful information that encourages ongoing informal learning.

Common Post Type #1: Questions Related to Symptoms and Personal Experiences with a Strict Gluten-free Diet

Figure 1 Post Type #1: Calls for advice or questions about symptoms and experiences living with a strict gluten-free diet

Figure 1 Post Type #1: Calls for advice or questions about symptoms and experiences living with a strict gluten-free diet

 

The most commonly posted and commented on content to the gluten-free Subreddit is that in which the user seeks advice about particular symptoms that accompany gluten-related illnesses or a gluten-related experience the user may have encountered. Symptom- and lifestyle-related posts comprised fifty-five percent of the top commented posts in the sample time frame. Most of these posts are posed as questions and follow a model of a newcomer seeking to glean knowledge from a variety of experienced users. The role of a novice within this Subreddit does not necessarily fit the typical description of a novice learner, however. In many cases the posters seeking advice are, in fact, introducing themselves to the community for the first time and are new to a gluten-free diet. In other cases, the posters already have a history of posting to the Subreddit, as well as a history with the diet (see fig. 1). The nature of gluten-free illnesses is that no two people present with the same symptoms nor do the symptoms necessarily remain consistent over time,31 so the Subreddit becomes a place where users, regardless of their experience, may at one time have a question or require advice. The line between novice and expert is always shifting, Knowledge is not shared in a top-down manner but rather in a free exchange across all posters.

Posts of this variety almost always begin with a personal anecdote. These stories serve as context for the question, but they also personalize the subjects by shedding some light on their experience and who they are. (Reddit users do not identify themselves, but they often share certain demographic information like age, gender, and location.) Personalization is an important part of the knowledge exchange, as it makes the poster relatable to different users on a variety of personally meaningful levels.32 For instance, in the example above, the original poster (OP) indicates he or she has been gluten-free for three years. Revealing some personal information may signal other long-time dieters to share their own experiences, as they may provide a new perspective or simply just acknowledge a level of understanding. In these instances, the OP is looking for practical suggestions on how to live a healthy and productive life while gluten-free. Linking to outside sources such as scientific research and other medical resources is encouraged, but it is often the wisdom that comes from within the community that garners the most dialogue. For many living gluten-free lives, the amateur provides a greater wealth of information than the medically trained expert. Gee and Hayes note that the blending of the scientific and the personal is common within affinity spaces.33 Although users come to the gluten-free Subreddit for specialized information, the present analysis indicates users most commonly share posts with the goal of seeking or providing emotional support. In the example in figure 1, the OP makes reference to “all the online communities,” illustrating the fragmentation of information that can occur on the web. While a particular affinity space will not necessarily have all the information one is seeking, the ongoing participation process can enrich the archives over time so that it becomes a valuable central resource.

 

Common Post Type #2: Advice for Educating Others about Gluten-Related Illnesses

Figure 2 Post Type #2: Calls for advice about dealing with people not understanding of gluten-related illnesses (user names removed)

Figure 2 Post Type #2: Calls for advice about dealing with people not understanding of gluten-related illnesses (user names removed)

 

If medical experts have difficulty understanding gluten-related illnesses, the general population not directly affected by this issue is even more uneducated. Although the potential effects of gluten on certain people have received more attention in the media recently,34 many people are still not even aware of what gluten is. This can lead to confusion and miscommunication, especially between gluten-free dieters and their social circles. People on a gluten-free diet are hyper-aware of how it affects their entire life, as any eating situation can have a potentially detrimental result. Thus, educating other people becomes a part of the eating routine, a task that is often riddled with frustration, as evidenced by the post in figure 2. Education-related posts represent twenty-one percent of the most commented and upvoted posts in the sample, indicating that increasing awareness of gluten-related illnesses is an important issue for users, one that camaraderie and commiseration can help mitigate.

Not only must gluten-free dieters learn to modify their own lives in a way that can be extremely disruptive and overwhelming, but they must also work to educate the people in their lives. The advice users seek is often posed as a question, and typically begins with a personal experience. Here, posters look to their fellow community members for understanding—and in some cases, comic relief—but also for guidance on how to handle difficult situations. Anyone who has had an experience dealing with someone who does not understand or is insensitive to a gluten-related illness can be an expert in the gluten-free Subreddit. Sharing stories and suggestions is an important part of the learning process, as it gives users tools to cope with situations that will undoubtedly arise again in the future. The median number of comments on the top one hundred posts in the gluten-free Subreddit is 21.5, so the fact that 186 people commented on the post in figure 2 indicates that exchanging knowledge about how best to educate “outsiders” about the gluten-free diet is of value to users.

Common Post Type #3: Links to Gluten-Related Articles

Figure 3 Post Type #3: Links to gluten-related articles (user names removed)

Figure 3 Post Type #3: Links to gluten-related articles (user names removed)

 

Another common post type is a link to an article related to gluten-free living. This may be a more general article that appears in the mass media, as in figure 3 (a trend article about gluten-free diets that appeared in TIME Magazine35), a post on another gluten-related website or discussion board, or a research study found in a scientific journal. Posters typically accompany a link with some sort of discussion starter—figure 3 begins with the open question of “What do you guys think of this article?”—and sometimes include their own thoughts on the matter. Link posts often generate discussion from multiple users, and it is within these discussions that one is more likely to find some disagreement and even animosity between users. With the first two common post types, the goal is to receive supportive guidance, which the community is quick to offer with little or no argument or judgment. But when users post a link to an article, especially one surrounded by some controversy, they invite a different kind of discussion, one that includes pieces of individual experience, academically acquired knowledge, second-hand information, and personal beliefs and values.

While Subreddit users are united in fostering compassion for a common cause in most of their communication, it is here that they show their differences. Comment threads within the analysis time period tend to break off into separate sub-conversations, often in a back-and-forth dispute over specific aspects of the linked material. And though users are typically able to validate others’ qualifications by their personal experience (i.e., they can speak to certain symptoms because they have experienced them), in discussions that involve outside information, users often assert their authority without any qualification. For example, a user may dispute a fact in an article without providing context, like a link to a counter source or some biographical information that would explain how they arrived at that knowledge. Disagreements often begin when users call into question each other’s qualifications. It is ultimately up to individual users to make a judgment call, using the media literacy skills they possess for critically analyzing information and assessing a user’s credibility. The ability to discern and promote credible comments and sources is vital to the collective wisdom of the Subreddit. Gee and Hayes maintain that people gain trust through empirical evidence and through authority, often as “professional amateurs.”36

Even when disagreements arise on the gluten-free Subreddit, contributors largely maintain the social norms of cordiality and helpfulness established by the group. For instance, even when people get curt with one another they often end their post with a smiley-faced emoticon or other non-threatening cue to indicate they mean no real harm. Or they will follow up with an apology if they feel they have hurt someone’s feelings or have come on too strong. In this way, the use of certain words or punctuation allows users to convey certain emotions that are readily understood and accepted, as they adhere to community norms.37

            Posts that link to outside sources also emphasize the high degree of influence the mass media have over users. As Thoman and Jolls wrote, “Media no longer shape our culture, they are our culture.”38 A key aspect to the learning in link posts is the ability to critically analyze the multimodal messages of the mass media. Those who are more fluent in deciphering mediated messages will presumably take an expert stance in related discussions. Thoman and Jolls contend that the need for media literacy skills is imperative “to assure that our citizens are equipped to make the decisions and contributions a global economy and global culture demand of them.”39 Media literacy is especially important in a space in which many of the decisions have cultural and economic impact, both at an individual level and on a broader scale.

Common Post Type #4: Gluten-Free Recipes

Figure 4 Post-Type #4: Recipes, calls for recipes, and the sharing of food successes (user names removed)

Figure 4 Post-Type #4: Recipes, calls for recipes, and the sharing of food successes (user names removed)

 

The gluten-free Subreddit supports those living with a gluten-free diet, and the call for and exchange of recipes is a common type of post. Recipe posts do not elicit as much commentary as the other common post types, but they are frequently upvoted, comprising thirty-seven percent of the top voted posts within the sample time frame. A gluten-free diet can be very difficult to follow, particularly for those who are new to it. Learning what to eat and what not to eat, how to read labels, how to cook without gluten, and what products are best can be an overwhelming process.This is an area in which calling upon users’ trial-and-error experience and opinion can be very helpful. Recipes often come from outside sources, especially one of the many gluten-free cooking blogs that have recently become popular, but users also share their own personal recipes and pictures of their finished products. Users often call for or share recipes in relation to the time of year, as seen in figure 4. Because preparing meals for big groups of people at the holidays, or simply participating in them, can be a struggle for gluten-free dieters, seasonal recipe posts are usually quite popular. What results is a searchable pool of information from which users of any experience level can benefit. Gluten-free Subreddit users who have navigated the intricacies of gluten-free cooking can empathize with recipe disasters and revel in recipe successes, a process that helps strengthen the ties of the community.

Discussion

Gee and Hayes describe passionate affinity spaces as informal learning opportunities that are open and expansive, bringing together people with a common interest and allowing for those users to come and go as they see fit. Several characteristics must be present for an affinity space to thrive,40 and analysis of the gluten-free Subreddit’s four most common post categories affirms that those characteristics are evident in the space.

First, gluten-free Subreddit users have a passion for the topic that drives their ongoing desire to learn. As each of the common post types affirm, users visit the Subreddit to access and evaluate information about gluten-free living, as well as to share knowledge they believe is beneficial to the community. Users contribute different knowledge at different times, so the space will continue to grow as long as the passion exists.

A second characteristic of passionate affinity spaces that can be seen in the gluten-free Subreddit is that of flexible participation. Users participate to varying degrees; during the sample time frame, sixty-one of the 319 posters contributed morethan one post, and most of these posters also contributed multiple comments on others’ posts. The subset of repeat posters dedicates the time to help keep the conversation active and has demonstrated a vested interest in the space’s success. However, the majority of posters contributed only a single post, which indicates that participation is viewed as having a low barrier to entry. People are free to post when the need arises but do not feel compelled to make it a regular practice.The shifting leader-follower relationship is evident in the four example posts in this study. Two of the example posts (figs. 1 and 4) were contributed by people who already had experience living a gluten-free lifestyle. Their posts illustrate how experience is not always tantamount to expertise. The nature of the subject matter is such that those who could be considered leaders in some instances can still at times use guidance and support.

The popularity of posts consisting of personal anecdotes demonstrates how knowledge is distributed throughout the space, a final key characteristic of passionate affinity spaces. Much of the learning comes from users making sense of issues they have dealt with in their own lives and imparting that wisdom onto the group, as in the first two post examples. In addition to sharing experiences, the third and fourth post examples show how users also spread knowledge through links to outside resources such as recipes, scientific reports, and the latest media coverage.

As a passionate affinity space, the gluten-free Subreddit achieves its mission of being a supportive community to those on a gluten-free diet, while also providing an opportunity for users to share and extend their own knowledge. Digital media is the conduit for the learning that takes place in the Subreddit, and in order to maximize its benefits, users must practice media literacy skills to access and produce information. For example, two of the four most common post types—sharing gluten-related articles and recipes—involve linking to other sources on the web, which requires users to locate the sources, evaluate their credibility, and share the ones deemed most useful. Although participation is embodied predominately in the form of writing, users demonstrate literacy in a variety of forms of digital media, for example using photos and links to videos to create a multimodal learning experience. Furthermore, Reddit empowers users to make decisions about the content best suited for the space by promoting and filtering specific posts through its voting system. As more people turn to online affinity spaces like the gluten-free Subreddit for information, digital media literacy skills become an essentialpart of the informal learning process.

Limitations and Future Research

Several limitations to the current study must be addressed. Due to time and budgetary restrictions, the author was the sole coder of the content for this exploratory study. Further research into the space would benefit from multiple coders to affirm key categories and ensure consistency in coding. Furthermore, because the sample time frame was limited to three months, the analysis can only provide a view of the activity that took place in the gluten-free Subreddit from August to November 2012 and cannot be generalized to describe the space as a whole. Finally, the current analysis offers insight into the ways in which active users contribute and engage in media literacy practices in a passionate affinity space. However it cannot account for lurkers who do not make their presence known. An opportunity for future research in this and similar spaces is to extend the analysis by including user interviews that offer insight into users’ perceptions of the learning that is taking place.

This analysis of the gluten-free Subreddit as a passionate affinity space has significance to media literacy researchers as it helps illuminate how people utilize digital media literacy skills in informal learning settings. The examination of media literacy skills outside the context of a formal curriculum provides new opportunities to supplement the growing body of research on media literacy in elementary, secondary, and higher education.41 Further analysis of other online affinity spaces can help researchers gain a better understanding of the digital media literacy skills necessary to navigate such spaces, which can have implications for both self-directed and formal education

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Notes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Tim O’Reilly, “What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software,” O’Reilly.com, September 30, 2005, http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html.
  2. James P. Gee and Elisabeth R. Hayes, Language and Learning in the Digital Age (New York: Routledge, 2011), 70-71.
  3. Crystle A. Martin, “Information Literacy in Interest-Driven Learning Communities: Navigating the Sea of Information in an Online Affinity Space” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2012), ProQuest (3516797);see also Dan Gillmor, Mediactive (Creative Commons: Dan Gillmor, 2010), http://mediactive.com/book/how-to-get-it.
  4. “About Reddit,” Reddit.com, accessed December 12, 2012, http:// http://www.reddit.com/about/.
  5. “Reddit,” WolframAlpha.com (web statistics), accessed December 12, 2012, http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=reddit.
  6. “About Reddit.”
  7. “glutenfree,” Reddit.com (Subreddit), accessed December 12, 2012, http://www.reddit.com/r/glutenfree.
  8. Kelly M. Keegan, “‘I Submitted This with a Funnier Headline’: Multiliteracies and Communities of Practice at Fark.com (PhD diss., University at Buffalo, 2006), ProQuest (3227769): 6.
  9. James Paul Gee and Elisabeth R. Hayes, “Public Pedagogy Through Video Games: Design, Resources & Affinity Spaces,” gamebasedlearning.org.uk, January 19, 2009, http://www.gamebasedlearning.org.uk/content/view/59/.
  10. Gee and Hayes, Language and Learning in the Digital Age, 69.
  11. Patricia Aufderheide, “Part II: Conference Proceedings and Next Steps,” in Media Literacy: A Report of the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy (Aspen Institute Wye Center, Queenstown, Maryland, December 7-9, 1992) (Washington D.C.: Aspen Institute, 1993), http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/aspen-media-literacy-conference-report-part-ii.
  12. Gee and Hayes, “Public Pedagogy Through Video Games.”
  13. Gee and Hayes, Language and Learning in the Digital Age, 139.
  14. Gillmor, Mediactive, 60.
  15. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991); see also Etienne Wenger, “Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems,” Organization 7, no. 2 (2000): 229.
  16. Nancy K. Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 87.
  17. Ibid., 88.
  18. Lave and Wenger, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, 93.
  19. See James Paul Gee, New Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Area and “Worked Examples” as One Way Forward (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009); Gillmor, Mediactive.
  20. Gee and Hayes, Language And Learning in the Digital Age, 70.
  21. Sally Jacoby and Patrick Gonzales, “The Constitution of Expert-Novice in Scientific Discourse,” Issues in Applied Linguistics 2, no. 2 (1991): 152.
  22. Lave and Wenger, Situated Learning, 114.
  23. Bonnie Liebman, “Gluten-Free Confusion: Separating Fact from Fiction,” Nutrition Action Health Letter 38,no. 7 (2011): 9.
  24. Search conducted December 2012.
  25. Saskia Brand-Gruwel et al., “Information Problem Solving by Experts and Novices: Analysis of a Complex Cognitive Skill,” Computers in Human Behavior 21,no. 3 (2005): 487-508.
  26. John S. Brown, “New Learning Environments for the 21st Century: Exploring the Edge,” Change 38, no. 5 (2006): 19.
  27. Pierre Levy, “Collective Intelligence, a Civilisation: Towards a Method of Positive Interpretation,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 18,no. 3/4 (2005): 189-198.
  28. See Keegan, “I Submitted This with a Funnier Headline;” Christian Pentzold, “Imagining the Wikipedia Community: What do Wikipedia Authors Mean When They Write About Their ‘Community’?” New Media & Society 13, no. 5: 704-721; Robert Plant, “Online Communities,” Technology in Society 26, no. 1 (2004): 51-65.
  29. Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss, Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research (Chicago: Aldine Publications, 1967); Anselm L. Strauss and Juliet M. Corbin, Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures Techniques (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1990).
  30. Jim Tan, “Grounded Theory in Practice: Issues and Discussion for New Qualitative Researchers,” Journal of Documentation 66,no. 1 (2010): 93-112.
  31. Liebman, “Gluten-Free Confusion,” 9.
  32. Jose P. Zagal and Amy Bruckman, “Designing Online Environments for Expert/Novice Collaboration: Wikis to Support Legitimate Peripheral Participation,” Convergence 16, no. 4 (2010): 455.
  33. Gee and Hayes, Language and Learning in the Digital Age, 91.
  34. Glenn A. Gaesser and Siddhartha S. Angadi, “Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population?” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112,no. 9 (2012): 1330-1333.
  35. Katy Steinmetz, “Bad-Mouthing Gluten: What’s Behind the Craze for Gluten-free Food?” Time, May 23, 2011, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2071129,00.html.
  36. Gee and Hayes, Language and Learning in the Digital Age, 71.
  37. Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, 59-60.
  38. Elizabeth Thoman and Tessa Jolls, “Media Literacy—A National Priority for Changing World,” American Behavioral Scientist 48,no. 1 (2004): 18.
  39. Ibid., 21.
  40. Gee and Hayes, Language and Learning in the Digital Age, 70-71.
  41. See Paul Mihailidis, “Media Literacy in Journalism/Mass Communication Education: Can the United States Learn from Sweden?” Journalism & Mass Communication Educator 60,no. 4 (2006): 416-428; Renee Hobbs, “The State of Media Literacy Education,” Journal of Communication 55, no. 1 (2005): 51-65.
Kristy Roschke

About Kristy Roschke

Kristy Roschke is a doctoral student and faculty associate at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where she teaches courses in digital media and graphic design. Her research interest concerns digital media literacy training for students and educators at the K-12 and undergraduate level. Her work has appeared in The Southwestern Mass Communication Journal. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Roschke spent ten years as a high school journalism teacher and previously worked in high-tech public relations.

One Response to Passionate Affinity Spaces on Reddit.com: Learning Practices in the Gluten-free Subreddit

  1. John McArthur
    JAMcArthur May 13, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    Kristy – thanks for your article. It’s a great resource for those interested in affinity spaces and the digital tools that can provide resources for gathering. I’ve assigned this article as reading for students in our Master’s program interested in digital places.

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