Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1699-2684

Date of Award

8-10-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Carol Winkler

Second Advisor

Daniel Altman

Third Advisor

Timothy Barouch

Fourth Advisor

Anthony Lemieux

Fifth Advisor

Dror Walter

Abstract

The need to maintain a stable economic system has enormous implications for populations living around the globe. Black markets and shadow economic activities of non-state actors, in particular, pose a large, threat to the world economic stability. ISIS is one such group, who in their online communication material publicized their own currency, separate and outside of the international financial systems. I conducted a three-tiered and dual-language mixed methodological analysis to examine ISIS’s communication output from its three magazine Dabiq, Rumiyah and al-Naba’ and all the official videos publicized in the magazines between June 2014 and April 2020 consisting of 260 issues, 4,652 pages, 2,000,582 words. 4,735 images and 1,411 videos. I used unsupervised machine learning to examine the collectives formed with economic terms, and further quantitatively tested the relationship of the volume of economic messaging with contextual factors. Additionally, I supplemented the analysis with constitutive rhetoric, where I demonstrated how a digital object functions as an imagined ideograph. A mixed-methodology model for examining communication of non-state actors emerges from this dissertation. The findings demonstrate how non-state actors use rhetoric of economics to form collectives prior to state-formation. I further demonstrate the relationship of economic messaging to digital takedowns, airstrikes and leadership changes. Furthermore, theoretically I convey the need for a fourth ideological effect in constitutive rhetoric, imagined ideographs, in trying to account for the changes in the digital world, and non-state actors. The imagined ideograph accounts for the constitutive powers of digital objects in groups that have yet reached established political discourse. This study demonstrates the value of holistically approaching the communication output of non-state actors in social media. By looking at economic messaging, it conveys how non-state actors form collectives, differentiate sub-groups, and use objects to define themselves and their enemies.

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