Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Richard Fine


As new media become more ubiquitous, our emotional experiences in digital space are increasing exponentially as well. While there is much talk of “affective” computing and “affective” new media art, a disconnect exists between networked emotions and the popular media that they inhabit. This research presents a theoretical framework for assessing “digital emotions”—a term that describes the feedback process between digital technologies and the body with respect to short, networked inscriptions of emotion and the (re)experience of those inscriptions within the body and through digital space. Digital emotions display five basic characteristics that can be applied to a variety of media environments: (1) They describe a process of feedback that link short, emotive inscriptions in digital environments to users and their (re)experiences of those inscriptions; (2) This feedback process includes, but is not limited to, the inscriber, the medium, and the receiver and the emotive experience fuels the initial connectivity and any further connectivity; (3) The emotional value varies depending on the media, the community of users, and the aesthetic experience of the digital emotion; (4) Digital emotions influence our emotional repertoire by normalizing our paradigm scenarios; and (5) They are highly malleable based on changes in technologies and their ability to both expand and contract emotional experiences in real time. The core characteristics of digital emotions are applied to three broad and overlapping categories: technology, community, and aesthetic experience. Each of these aspects of digital emotions work together, yet they exist along the massive spectrum of our online, emotional experiences—from our casual click of the “like” button to digital community artworks. Applied to digital spaces along this spectrum, digital emotions illuminate the feedback process that occurs between the media, the network, and the environment. The framework ultimately suggests that the process of digital emotions explicates emotions experiences that could only occur in digital space and are therefore unique to digital culture.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2011