#HASHTAG TRIGGER WARNING: USING TUMBLR TO UNDERSTAND CURRENT CONFLICT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Jaworksi, B. Autumn
The topic of Trigger Warnings [TWs] in higher education is often at the center of controversy. Because TWs are popularly and successfully implemented on Tumblr, this thesis compares the use of trigger warnings as discussed and practiced on Tumblr with the use of trigger warnings as discussed in higher education. Research material includes articles published by The Chronicle of Higher Education between 2006 and present, as well as blog posts published on Tumblr within the same period. The result of this research is the identification of four areas of conflict surrounding TWs in higher education, which are: value of content, potential for punishment, ability to handle ambiguity, and the presence of hierarchy or authority. The results of this comparison show that trigger warnings as practiced on the internet are culturally decided by bloggers, warn against recreational (devalued) content, hold no potential for consequences, and are not clearly defined (but cause no confusion). However, trigger warnings in the university warn against educational (valued) content, hold high potential for consequences, are subject to decision by multiple competing authorities, and are also unclearly defined (but cause confusion). Because TWs are a practice imported from Tumblr/the internet into higher education, these differences are found at the root cause of more ostensible issues surround TWs, such as concerns over whether TWs are moral or threaten students’ development. The conclusion to be drawn from these results are that trigger warnings need not necessarily be part of a debate over preserving or losing the values of a university; rather, it may more productively be at the center of a discussion on how the characteristics of the practice as it is found on the internet must change before it can be successfully implemented in a university.
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