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How does QAnon build and elaborate on its core theory? Alice Marwick and William Partin released a preprint of “Constructing Alternative Facts: Populist Expertise and the QAnon Conspiracy,” exploring QAnon as a participatory culture and digging into how Anons build knowledge.

What they find builds on Francesca Tripodi’s work on scriptural interference as a form of close reading borrowed from biblical study practices and applied to other texts. In doing so, participants propose new connections and meanings—and reject interpretations that contradict established community knowledge or stretch these practices too far.

The result is a new form of populist expertise complete with its own distinct canon, core texts, and established research practices. Any attempt to counter specific components of the QAnon theory or convince individual participants to leave the community must contend with how these layers of process and participation reinforce the ‘knowledge’ Anons create.

NBC News’s Brandy Zadrozny called the work “smart insight” and expressed appreciation for the research work of “deep hanging out”. Shannon McGregor noted that “not all participation is normatively good,” while Marwick summed it up in an interview with Tech Policy Press: “rather than just looking to increase interaction, if social platforms truly care about democracy, they’re going to have to prioritize different things than simple engagement. What does a successful online community look like? This is a question that, I suspect, the research teams at social platforms already know the answer to – it’s just whether or not platforms will focus on that over making money.”

Read the full paper

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