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Bryan Chen
Dr. Brian Johnson
Analyzing Contemporary Pop Culture (Honors)
8 May 2013
Reddit Through the Lens of Globalization
Oh, Reddit. This is a common verbal and textual utterance with a multitude of possible
interpretations among those familiar with the social media site Reddit.com. An eight year old site
originally started by two University of Virginia graduates Steve Huffman and Alex Ohanian, Reddit.com
(stylized reddit) is a user-oriented text and link aggregation (and ranking) site that has grown to be
unprecedented in its staying power and creation and harboring of communities (Macale 1). When an
analysis of reddit is conducted through the lens of globalization, reddit shows itself to be a colorful
example of all sorts of globalization, global community, and cultural blending while retaining a
conspicuous thread of American civic culture as discussed in Globalization & American Popular Culture,
3rd Ed. by Lane Crothers.
To describe reddit as merely a social news site seems rather misleading as it is so much more
than just a collection of user submitted links to news stories (Reisinger 1). Whats different about Reddit
is that its a real, vibrant community, one of the few big websites where the users have constructed an
unmistakable moral and political philosophy, claims Farhad Manjoo, a contributor to Slate (1). Since its
inception in June 2005, reddit has become an global Internet fixture and fostered its own flavor of reddit
culture, which manifests in its memes, inside jokes, karma sensibilities, and reddiquetteall of which
can be read and analyzed through the lens of globalization for significance beyond the admittedly often
immature jokes that freely and heavily populate top comments of most reddit threads (The Culture of
Reddit). reddit absorbs much of what can be considered Internet culture (e.g. memes, jokes, canonical
stories) from other well-known sites through omnivorous redditors who participate in multiple social

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media or imageboard sites on the Internet, such as 4chan or Memebase; however the crowdsourced
preferences and attitudes (in line with moderators and community rules) are what define what traits and
parts of other online communities are allowed to overflow into mainstream reddit culture. Additionally,
reddits short history includes easily understandable examples of convergence and synergy as well as
startling evidence of the tangible power of a global community of communities formed almost solely
through online means.
When reddit founders Steve Huffman and Alex Ohanian started the site in 2005, they spent most
of the first year submitting links themselves through multiple accounts they ran themselves (Macale 1).
The site was initially funded by a Y Combinator startup grant and soon acquired by Cond Nast within a
year of its operation (Arrington 1). Cond Nast Publications is a company that currently owns and
publishes 18 consumer magazines, four business- to-business publications, 27 websites, and more than
50 apps for mobile and tablet devices as well as Fairchild Fashion Media (FFM) (About Us). Cond
Nast was the originator of the lifestyle magazine targeting consumers by income level and common
interest rather than circulation numbers since its start in 1874, purchasing magazines such as Vogue,
House and Garden, and Vanity Fair before the Roaring Twenties had hit (Today in History March 26
1). Even with such an impressive history, Cond Nast is now still only a subsidiary of Advance
Publications, #51 of Forbes.coms Americas Largest Private Companies, and has been so for the better
part of the last 70 years.
This trend of acquisition and swallowing of lifestyle media under these progressively larger
publishers exemplifies Crothers concept of convergence in globalization, defined as the trend of seeing a
few major corporations regulating pop culture production and marketing today in order to decrease
financial risk for each individual project (88). When reddit was acquired by Cond Nast a year from its
opening, the risks of the projects success (or possible failure) were spread across the entire Cond Nast
publishing family (which itself is under Advance Publications), providing a safer foundation for it to
flourish and develop into a community of communities boasting over one billion page views per month

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since January 2011 (when first acquired, 500,000 daily unique views). To its credit, Cond Nast kept its
relatively laissez faire approach rather consistent with regard to the functioning and continued
development of reddit; while a member of the Cond Nast family, reddit began allowing users to create
their own subreddits (online communities), became open source, began selfserve advertising, and
launched reddit gold. In September 2011, Cond Nast spun reddit out to become its own company as a
subsidiary of Advance publications (Macale 1).

This can be interpreted as a sign that reddit was

sufficiently successful and projected to keep flourishing enough to be on Cond Nasts level of
publication.
The label social media has been used to define a number of Web sites whose content is
primarily user driven, including blogs, Wikis, and websites that allow users to share, discuss, and rank
photos, Web pages, and news stories respectively (Lerman 1). By this definition, reddit is most certainly
a social media site. In Social Information Processing in Social News Aggregation, Lerman describes
four characteristics that social media sites (including reddit) share:
(1) Users create or contribute content in a variety of media types;
(2) Users annotate content with tags;
(3) Users evaluate content, actively by voting or passively by using content; and
(4) Users create social networks by designating other users with similar interests as contacts or
friends.
We believe that social media facilitate new ways of interacting with information. (Lerman 1)
Lerman continues by asserting that by participating in social media, users are adding rich metadata in
the form of social networks, annotations, and ratings which enhances the collaborative problem solving
of the group through what she calls social information processing. The above assertion agrees with
personal in-field observations of reddit, including reddits strong online response to the 2013 Boston

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Marathon Bombing and monitoring of subreddits (basically online communities) such as r/AskReddit and
r/GetStudying. reddit fulfills all four of the listed characteristics as well.
Reddits participation in both philanthropic activities as well as unprecedented amount and degree
of user interactivity show a high level of the globalized social information processing that for the most
part behaves according to reddiquette, an informal expression of the values of many redditors, as written
by redditors themselves (Redditquette). redditquette is an amalgam of Internet culture and globalized
values stressing respect, consideration, and acceptance, regardless of the fact that reddit is favorably
designed for those who enjoy anonymity. Reddiquette includes rules such as:
Moderate based on quality, not opinion.
Use proper grammar and spelling.
Keep your submission titles factual and opinion free.
Consider posting constructive criticism / an explanation when you downvote something, and do
so carefully and tactfully.
Above all, the highest priorities of the reddiquette seem to be maintaining mutual respect and fairness in
regard to democracy in order to make for the best experience for other redditors on the site.
It can be argued that reddiquette has strong roots in the civic culture of the United States. As to
what constitutes American civic culture, Crothers includes the values, ideas, and expectations that people
who live in the United States refer to when explaining what they believe, why they believe it, and which
programs they favor which are couched in norms like democracy, individual rights, tolerance, and so
on (15). It may seem disingenuous to assume that the expectations of civility and fairness are a thread of
uniquely American civic culture because reddit culture is most certainly a social media site with a global
membership. However, a strong argument can be made that the United States based and owned sites
humble roots were born of a distinctly American-flavored civic culture with expectations (and norms) of
consideration, voting, democracy, and opportunity (in the form of link and comment karma and reddit
Gold) by virtue of its location of birth and original core user demographic before overtaking the globe.
When compared to other Web communities with global memberships of comparable size such as 4chan,

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Facebook, and other blogsites, reddits self-imposed code of ethics agrees with American civic norms and
shows itself to be more considerate and attentive to other users humanity in overall culture, even behind
the cloak of Internet anonymity. The fact that this is apparent in reddit community culture but not that of
other comparable sized anonymous Web communities lends credence to the idea that many of reddits
cultural norms are distinctly American civic culture-influenced. For example, 4chans culture of
anonymous users has been known to have inspired and enabled a loosely associated group of slightlyoutside-the-law hacktivists (Kelly 1663). This could perhaps be interpreted as a manifestation of
American counter-culture influence as Anonymous vigilantism on a global scale. Additionally, 4chan
culture (specifically /b/ culture) was one of the breeding grounds of Internet troll culture, which consists
of users behaving as trolls- transgressing online community norms often with malicious intent and the
condoning, approval, and parading of such behavior as admired (Bergstrom 1). However one looks at it,
the 4chan-bred global-scale hacktivist and troll culture bears little resemblance to the transparency, group
involvement, and civic norms expressed (and basically hoped for) in reddiquette and American civic
culture.
A much more conspicuous example of American civic culture being broadcast to a global
audience via reddit is through the subreddit /r/IAmA in which individuals opens him or herself up to
questions from the community tagging AMA Ask Me Anything (occasionally, this becomes AMAA,
Ask Me Almost Anything for some less gutsy sharers). The AMAs all require some sort of proof that can
be shared publicly or privately with moderators (see Figure 1). The popularization of this trusted yet
efficient format of sharing, requesting, and learning flourished so well that many public figures (their
public relations and marketing teams, probably) began to take notice and decided to post AMAs in the/
r/IAmA subreddit.
As of May 8, 2013 the /r/IAmA subreddits top 7 links/posts of all time are 100% American
culture related, and all fit into American civic culture quite neatly. Firstly, all of the top posts are chiefly
in American English, which is distinctly culturally American. Barack Obama is obviously a public figure
of American politics and culture who embodies and exemplifies American civic culture better than most

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anyone else. With almost double the upvote count of the second place post, President Obamas AMA
almost smugly sits at the top of the list of most upvoted of all time as an example of American culture
dominating in a global community. Coming in a distant second in the tally for all-time AMA top post was
Bill Gates, and third in line was reddit-favorite astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Bill Gates is a living
figure embodying the American Dream of making it big and then giving it all away to save (at least some
of) the world. Gates AMA shared with the world the American Dream in living, typing (okay, probably
dictated) form. Dr. Tyson, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and the Mars Rover scientists (as seen in Figure 1)
occupy the next places, and show the reddit culture preference for science and scientists, especially
interested in those of American origin. The American scientists embody and spread American civic values
such as exploration, innovation, and initiative. Even Snoop Lions AMA is a representation of American
civic values such as individualism, freedom of choice, and do-no-harm. Perhaps, one could even see the
liberal lean that some suggest exists in reddit culture; Farhad Manjoo writing for slate even went as far as
to claim that Redditors are lefties who have a soft spot for Ron Paul, theyre taken with atheism and the
legalization of marijuana, they hate political interference with the Internet, they love Stephen Colbert, and
theyre gaga for animated GIFs (1). Additionally (perhaps incidentally), the guy who got mauled by a
bear and fought it off and drove 4 miles down a mountain he is the most straightforward exemplification
of the American civic culture values of rugged individualism and surviving against seemingly
insurmountable odds. The fact that each of these top posts was and continues to be broadcasted to a huge
(and growing) global audience means that these powerful and permeating examples of American civic
culture will only grow in global influence over time, likely to be joined by other similar posts if the trend
continues.
Furthermore, the public figures use of /r/IAmA as a channel for free publicity and promotional
opportunities illustrates the globalization concept of synergy incredibly well. Synergy in product
placements can be seen as the linkages among an array of pop culture products that serve to enhance
the marketability of both sides (Crothers 86). In this case, the public figures AMAs can be, in many

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cases, safely interpreted as product placements that enhance marketability or attractiveness of both the
public figure and the reddit community.
The activism that redditors have been known take part in through their online community takes
on many forms including fundraising cash for hive-approved causes, /r/RandomActsOfPizza, reddit
Secret Santa, and political measures such as opposing SOPA/PIPA via site-wide blackout. The fundraising
and causes that have been deemed acceptable and championed by the reddit hive (as the community is
sometimes referred to, with neutral or possibly negative connotations associated with mass preferences
easily becoming thoughtless) include $600,000 raised for public education, $45,000 for various charities
raised by the Christianity, Atheism, and Islam subreddit communities allied efforts, and $185,000 raised
to rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The allying of /r/Christianity, /r/atheism, and /r/Islam
exemplifies a mantra of acceptance and cooperation for the greater good, humanitarian values that can be
attributed to current American civic culture as well. Also, the reddit community regularly comes together
to help support fellow redditors in needthere are even subreddits specifically for the purpose of
assisting, /r/assistance. reddit Secret Santa is an event orchestrated solely by redditors for redditors every
year to bring gifts and friendship to individuals all over the globe; the Christmas and Secret Santa culture
is especially apparent in and relevant to American holiday culture (The Culture of Reddit). The
subreddit /r/RandomActsOfPizza is a place where redditors crowdsource their woes and needs for pizza
to a global audience that then responds with votes and possible pizza-related assistance from other
generous redditors (Macale 1). When reddit moderators and users all over the world agreed that the Stop
Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) bills that were introduced into
Congress in the fall of 2011 were out of line, reddit higher-ups found a way to black-out reddit as a show
of solidarity and disapproval toward the unfair bills (Crothers 126, The Culture of Reddit). All of these
instances of reddit successfully banding together for good causes indicate the presence and flourishing of
a global community that exists only on the Internet that still manages to make a discernible and
substantial difference in activist work via large-scale cooperative philanthropic activity.

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The subreddit /r/AskReddit allows redditors to pose questions of varying depth and hilarity to
each other in order to compile a crowdsourced collection of anecdotal stories (sometimes of varying
veracity). The AskReddit subreddit is easily one of the most diverse communities around on reddit,
composed of members from countries all over the world sharing their views and perspectives to
contribute to the cultural blending and forming of what many have already noticed is an almost
homogenous globalized redditor identity. The globalized AskReddit culture tends to show a love of
learning about life from different perspectives and a sense of value derived from frequently sharing
stories to contribute to the pool of collective experience. While supposedly 72% of redditors were males
(median age 25-34, with some college education) as of 2012, there seems to be a moderately strong
showing observed for females and other individuals in the AskReddit subreddit, especially when their
perspectives are specifically requested, such as in questions addressed to Ladies or Female doctors
(The Culture of Reddit).
One of the most powerful traits of reddit is its function as a meeting place for many
communities (Macale 1). As a community of subcommunities, reddits rather homogenized global
culture of reddiquette is juxtaposed with its highly heterogeneous offering of subcommunities/subreddits
from which redditors are free to choose to members, as omnivorously as they please. This fascinating
profusion of subreddits is always growing and diversifying further and redditors are free to be members
of as many subreddits as they can keep up with, providing even more of what Lerman calls social
filtering or social recommendation a crowdsourced version of collaborative filtering used by large
companies such as Amazon and Netflix (2). Social filtering is the reliance on a social network to discover
and rank news stories, and it can be inferred that an increase in subreddit diversity will increase the social
filtering capabilities and attractiveness of reddit for redditors on a local to global scale, as the social
networks in subreddits can have interests as broad or as narrow (geographically and content-wise) as
creators and members want (Lerman 2).

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In 2005, we wanted [reddit] to be the place to go to find out what was new and interesting
online, explained reddit co-founder Alex Ohanion (The Culture of Reddit). Banking on a simple and
not-new concept of news aggregation not unlike many other sites that before it such as Digg and Flickr,
reddit has been able to distinguish itself above the sea of competing Web sites through its ability to foster
a globalized reddit culture corresponding to its role as a meeting place and community of subcommunities
(through its subreddit system). The cohesive globalized reddit culture (which can be observed to contain
noticeably American civic values and norms) allows the reddit community as a whole to draw on its
expansive oft-diversified userbase to make considerable and weighty impacts for humanitarian causes all
around the world.

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Figure 1 http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/top/ accessed: 5/8/13

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Works Cited
"About Us." Cond Nast. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2013. <http://www.condenast.com/about-us>.
Arrington, Michael. 2006. Breaking news: Cond Nast/Wired acquires Reddit, Techcrunch. 31
October. accessed 7 May 2013. <

http://techcrunch.com/2006/10/31/breaking-

news-conde-nastwired-acquires-reddit/>
Bergstrom, Kelly. "Dont feed the troll: Shutting down debate about community expectations on Reddit.
com." First Monday 16.8-1 (2011).
Crothers, Lane. Globalization and American Popular Culture. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.
Print.
Kelly, Brian B. "Investing in a Centralized Cybersecurity Infrastructure: Why "Hactivism" Can And
Should Influence Cybersecurity Reform." Boston University Law Review 92.5 (2012): 1663.
Web. 8 May 2013.
<http://www.bu.edu/law/central/jd/organizations/journals/bulr/volume92n4/documents/KELLY.p
df>.

Lerman, Kristina. "Social information processing in news aggregation." Internet Computing,


IEEE 11.6 (2007): 16-28.
Macale, Sherilynn. "A Rundown of Reddits History and Community [Infographic]." TNW Network All
Stories. The Next Web, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 07 May 2013.
<http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2011/10/14/a-rundown-of-reddits-history-and-communityinfographic/>.

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Works Cited (contd)
Manjoo, Farhad. "The Great and Powerful Reddit." Slate Magazine. N.p., 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 08 May
2013.
<http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/01/reddit_how_the_site_went_from_
a_second_tier_aggregator_to_the_web_s_unstoppable_force_.html>.
"Reddiquette." Reddit: The Front Page of the Internet. Ed. Creesch. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2013.
<http://www.reddit.com/wiki/reddiquette>.
Reisinger, Don. "Reddit Surges to 1 Billion Monthly Page Views." CNET News. CBS Interactive, 03 Feb.
2011. Web. 07 May 2013. <http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20030489-17.html>.
The Culture Of Reddit | Off Book | PBS. Prod. Kornhaber Brown. Perf. Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of
Reddit; Blair Drager, Editor of The Redditor; Kevin Morris, Daily Dot Blogger; Stephen
Bruckert,

Memefactory Researcher; Dworkin & The Other Mod, Shit Reddit Says Moderators

(appearing

Anonymously). The Culture Of Reddit | Off Book. PBS, 1 June 2012. Web. 07 May 2013.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded>.
"Today in History March 26." American Memory. The Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 08 May
<http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/mar26.html>.

2013.