Online Quotation Culture: Investigating the Fate of the Book in the Age of New Media
Kyle Booten

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

This dissertation explores the fate of the book—our most important “old media”—in the age of new, digital media. On networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, some of the most popular accounts are those that share quotations from TV shows, films, and books. In the context of online quotation culture, the words of authors such as Jane Austen, Søren Kierkegaard, and James Baldwin reach countless devoted readers, including school-aged ones. This culture represents a possible site of connection between academic literacies and the digital literacies that young people increasingly develop outside of school in online affinity groups. Still, educators might rightly wonder what young people gain from reading these authors not in their entirety but in fragments. This study begins by using ethnographic techniques to uncover participants’ reasons for circulating quotations from books on Tumblr, the competencies that they develop as they do so, and the connections that they forge between online quoting and non-digital literacy practices. Techniques of Natural Language Processing, some of them novel, are then used to analyze a large corpus of quotations shared on social media in order to better understand participants’ aesthetic values—i.e., what makes quotations quotable. Finally, a design intervention explores the ways that participation in online quotation culture can complement the traditional literacies of a college class. This multi-pronged study pushes back against popular narratives about the ways that social media use alienates young people from deep engagement with texts.
About Kyle Booten
Kyle Booten is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and the Berkeley Center for New Media. His research blends an ethnographic perspective with the techniques of the digital humanities in order to understand online literacy practices. His computational research has appeared in the conference proceedings of CHI and NAACL, and he contributed to a chapter on the future of writing instruction in the Handbook of Research on Teaching (5th ed.). Kyle holds an AB (English) from Princeton University and an MFA (Poetry) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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