Date of Award

5-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Advisor

Ding, Huiling

Committee Member

Katz , Steven B

Committee Member

Jones , Karyn O

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the cross-cultural comparison of the public rhetorics that construct HIV/AIDS in two online discussion forums from the United States and China. Social constructions of HIV/AIDS have previously been explored in specific countries and cultures; however, comparative studies have rarely been conducted, especially by applying rhetorical cultural analysis focusing on online discourses. Responding to these gaps in research, this study combines two underexplored dimensions -- comparative rhetorical analysis and online discourse -- to show how online communications, metaphors, and topoi identified in discussion forum posts reveal and construct the idea of HIV/AIDS in the public sphere for people living in the two countries with different political, social, and cultural backgrounds.
First, a rhetorical analysis on the discussion forum's structure and content provides a rich understanding of how the underlying ideology influences communication processes and rhetorical patterns. From there, a metaphorical analysis reveals how metaphors are applied and further construct people's interpretation of the disease and illness experience in their daily discourses. Finally, a topical analysis demonstrates how specific reasoning traditions shape the national and cultural mindset for constructing HIV/AIDS in certain ways. The findings suggest that the U.S. forum AIDSmeds reveals a more individualist-expressive rhetoric, which encourages sharing of personal illness experiences and emotions. While the Chinese forum ZhiAiJiaYuan reveals a more communitarian-persuasive rhetoric, which directly persuades the participants to construct their illness experiences from a social moral standpoint.

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