The news and entertainment website BuzzFeed features fairly predictable content – kitten pictures, pop star gifs, crafting ideas, etc. – and an uncannily familiar voice among the numerous posts. At once nostalgic and familiar, the tone is present in articles written by staff members, user contributors, and advertising contributors alike. I investigated the phenomenon of BuzzFeed’s distinct voice, specifically how its language has converged and how the site may influence the altering of words and phrases in the common lexicon. My investigation involved a dual quantitative and qualitative analysis of archived BuzzFeed articles from November 2006 through June 2014; in particular, the quantitative research applies hermeneutic principles to words and phrases in the article titles, and the qualitative side applies close textual analysis to three key BuzzFeed articles. Key steps in my research involved familiarizing myself with historic and contemporary conversations about Internet discourse, testing and comparing hermeneutic programs, and synthesizing my quantitative findings with close textual analyses. My paper concludes that that BuzzFeed has adapted the format of its articles to diversify its sources of humor through multimodality, and that its characteristic listicle format is ideal for cultivating nostalgia and humor. Furthermore, my research demonstrates that a dual qualitative and quantitative approach is necessary for analyzing emergent forms of discourse; while future research in the digital humanities may propel quantitative analytic capabilities, the best current analytical method involves both quantitative as well as qualitative work.

Mary Dombrowski

Davidson College