Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Darrin K. Hicks, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christina Foust

Third Advisor

Joshua Hanan

Fourth Advisor

Kate Willink

Fifth Advisor

Trace Reddell


Aesthetics, Affect, Digital media, Media criticism, Media studies, Protest art


The complexities of post-modernity tend to dissolve any facile model of direct cause-and-effect in politics, and yet as a democratic polity, we look for the comfort in knowing that political expression can enact change. Protest art, or acts of creative expression intended to resist dominant powers, forces, and structures, models the potential for political expression to create change that is not immediate, direct, or obvious, but rather "moves the social" through expressivity and aesthetics. While these features lend themselves to an analysis guided by affect theory, this sub-discipline within communication studies has tended to lack the methodological specificity to reproduce or expand applications. Daniel Stern's vitality pentad acts as a heuristic by which to study rhetorical objects; these objects are studied due to their expressivity, rather than their appeal to reason. Stern excludes "still" media forms such as photographs and illustrations; however, by looking at the way in which digital artifacts are imbued with movement in its networked path, we can understand that all digital media are time-based. The objects of study speak to the temporal, vital dimensions of digital protest art: Turkey's Vandalina art collective, which places protest stickers on transit cars, demonstrates how force and scale engender feeling of intimacy in public spaces. Iran's Zahra's Paradise, a webcomic-turned-graphic novel, offers differing temporal environments for the reader and weaves its aesthetics into the narrative to create a sense of space and place. Finally, the images of #HandsUpDontShoot, through their directional pull across digital networks, illustrates social media's tendency to remix aesthetic features of older media forms. Major insights drawn from this research speak to the political importance of subject formation--or interventions therein--and vitality forms as a method for rhetorical criticism, which allows the rhetorical critic to be more specific and methodical in applying affect theory to rhetoric. It also challenges the positivist notion that political expression must result in measurable change in order to be validated. Finally, this project addresses the virtual potentiality of digital data and offers a perspective that sees all digital media as time-based.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kate Drazner Hoyt


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

253 p.


Communication, Mass Communication, Art Citicism

Included in

Communication Commons