Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

John W. Jordan

Committee Members

Kathryn M. Olson, Leslie J. Harris, Nancy A. Burrell


LGBT, Rhetorical Agency, Rhetorical Template, Social Media, Social Movements, Youtube


Rhetorical agency is critical for addressing perceived community crises, especially for marginalized populations. Rhetorical agency, as it is used in this dissertation, refers to the capacity to act in a way that is recognizable and intelligible within the context in which it is presented (Campbell, 2005; Rand, 2014). Understanding rhetorical agency in this way recognizes that its enactment involves a complex interplay between the rhetor, his/her audience, and the rhetorical conditions characterizing the discursive context. Using a social media movement, the It Gets Better Project, as a case study, I analyze the LGBT population’s strategic response to address the issue of anti-gay bullying and LGBT youth suicides. Through critical analysis, I examine the relationship between the rhetorical goal of a marginalized population and the use of a particular Internet technology to address a situation that seemed urgent and uncertain. Specifically, I argue that drawing upon the enactment of lived experiences in the form of personal video testimonies creates discursive possibilities and limitations for rhetorical agency particular to the rhetorical situation in which it emerges.

Included in

Communication Commons