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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Jennifer Daryl Slack

Committee Member 1

Patty Sotirin

Committee Member 2

Sue Collins

Committee Member 3

Stephen K. Hunt


Social media command centers are specialized spaces dedicated to monitoring, analyzing, and visualizing social media data. These spaces were initially developed in corporate contexts for use in marketing, public relations, customer relationship management, and public safety applications. Public universities such as Clemson University and Illinois State University have recently adopted social media command centers in order to provide opportunities for education, research, community outreach, and university support by introducing social media analytics into an academic context. I argue that these academic social media command centers have been introduced with insufficient attention to the role these technological systems play in reorganizing university life.

Based upon my experiences developing and operating Illinois State University’s Social Media Analytics Command Center (SMACC), I examine the tensions, contradictions, and consequences involved in bringing a social media command center into an academic context. Using a theoretical and analytical tradition oriented in cultural studies, I map the articulations of discourse, practices, economic conditions, social formations, and technological constraints constitutive of corporate and academic social media command centers, and identify a series of problematics or crises that emerge when social media command centers are introduced in academic contexts. These problematics include a shifting public/private dialectic, increasing modes of surveillance, and changing practices of knowledge production. Through this process of mapping I also clarify sites of intervention where certain elements of social media command centers might be rearticulated or articulated to new concepts, people, and practices in order to allow for a more just distribution of power.