Communication Studies, Department of


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A thesis presented to the faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Arts. Major: Communication Studies Under the Supervision of Professor Kristen Lucas Lincoln, Nebraska April, 2010 Copyright (2010) Joshua Ewalt


In this thesis, I perform an analysis of counter-mapping on Google Earth as a process of organizing for social change. I address the process of mapping the virtual earth as an act of place-framing, an organizing process by which space is transformed to place so as to motivate action on the part of current and potential organizational adherents. Specifically, I argue that there are at least two ways in which place is framed on Google Earth so as to motivate action: place as “naturalized injustice” and place as “de-naturalized community.” Using the analytical vocabulary of collective action framing, and Martin’s (2003) extension of this vocabulary to the creation of place, I claim that the meanings of place are organized around diagnostic, prognostic and motivational themes. After illustrating these two place-frames, I suggest that the naturalized injustice frame may be a problematic place-based organizing process as it relies on the dominant hegemonic ideologies of globalization; namely, that certain localities will inevitably benefit from the transnational flow of symbols and capital. Thus, I argue that the de-naturalized community place-frame may be the more appropriate use of place for organizing against unchecked, free-market behaviors (in this case, mountaintop removal) “from below” as it offers place as a resistant geography to the encroachment of global space. Furthermore, I argue that this case of counter-mapping on Google Earth, and its framing of place, presents two dialectical tensions of organizing: reliance upon objective and subjective views of the landscape and the portrayal of people-in-place as victims or agents for social change. I conclude by providing some questions and issues that arose during the analysis dealing with unexpected ethical issues and concerns over the importance of public memory to organizing processes.

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