Reed Van Schenck is a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. Their dissertation research, “The Reactionary Web: Digital Media and the Reconstitution of White Supremacist Networks,” focuses on white supremacist digital networks in the United States with a particular interest in the effects of platform governance upon reactionary online cultures. Their interdisciplinary approach bridges critical-cultural studies, rhetorical theory, and media studies to evaluate the unsung ramifications of the far-right’s rise, regulation, and reconstitution. Highlighting patterns of interaction between users and infrastructure, Van Schenck’s work mobilizes humanistic analysis to understand political, economic, and ideological links between white supremacist networks and digital platforms, from Twitter and Twitch to Tor and Telegram. One result of this research is the forthcoming article “Remaking the World Memetically,” which demonstrates how 4chan’s /pol/ (“Politically Incorrect”) board weaponizes class-based alienation to inflame white masculine anxiety. They are also working on an auto-ethnographic investigation of 4chan’s /lgbt/ board, a predominantly transgender community, and practices of survival in response to white nationalist ideation.
Van Schenck is a 2023 Data Fluencies Dissertation Research grantee.