Exploring cultural boundries of sport fandom through critical discourse analysis

Sveinson, Katherine Larena
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina

This research aimed to critique the notion that sport solely brings people together by exploring discourses related to the creation of cultural boundaries by sport fans through critical discourse studies (CDS) (van Dijk, 2016; Martin, 2002). The three research questions for this dissertation are: How do sport fan-produced texts on social media create, reinforce, or challenge discourses? How do these discourses contribute to the production of cultural boundaries of sport fandom on Twitter? How does drawing cultural boundaries through discourses represent the simultaneously inclusive and exclusive nature of sport fandom on Twitter? A critical discourse analysis (CDA) methodology was employed, using the Toronto Blue Jays 2017 season as a case. Data was collected via Visual Twitter Analytics (Vista) software (Hoeber, Hoeber, El Meseery, Odoh, & Gopi, 2016). This software collects live tweets based on queries. Using the queries #LetsRise, #BlueJays, and @BlueJays, the terms ‘fan’, ‘fans’, and ‘fandom’ were searched for study one. The terms ‘Pillar’, ‘Superman’, and ‘@KPILLAR4’ were searched for study two. Data were read and re-read to determine patterns in the tweets. Next, tweets that represented the different discourses were selected and analyzed using critical discourse analysis. Data analysis involved Fairclough’s (1995a) three-dimensional framework, which involves text analysis, processing analysis, and social analysis, and van Dijk’s (2016) ideological discourse structures, including polarization, pronouns, emphasis on positive self-description and negative other-description, and norms and values. The first study found that using Twitter, fans both reinforced and undermined cultural boundaries based on ideological discourses of sport fandom, which included discourses of loyalty, unity, and consumption. The second study framed reactions to an athlete’s transgression based on the athlete’s brand image associated with Superman. Discourses of Superman, Justice League, and villains demonstrated the ways that cultural boundaries were reinforced and challenged based on opinions of appropriate language in sport. This work demonstrated the simultaneously fluid and rigid nature in which cultural boundaries are drawn. While sport fandom has been primarily explored from a functionalist perspective, these findings suggest that there is also an exclusionary culture, which provides an alternative perspective of sport fandom and fan behaviour.

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology & Health Studies, University of Regina. x, 289 p.