Talking Facts and Establishing (In)Justice: Discussing Public Matters on Instagram

Luise Salte


This study considers Instagram comment sections, drawing on an in-depth investigation of 400 comments. It identifies forensic rhetoric, so far largely overlooked in online communication research, entangled with epideictic rhetoric, reflecting talk about truth and justice entailing moral positioning. Although participants are oriented toward shared truth construction across disagreement, they are not explicitly oriented toward changing their own opinions or views. This article discusses what this implies in terms of deliberative democratic perspectives, and highlights the need to move beyond stages of proclamations to reach practical reasoning in public conversation. It shows that rhetorical approaches may help elucidate intricacies of online conversations and that forensic rhetoric may emerge to meet pertinent topics of what is true and just. It also contributes to filling the gap of scarce research on Instagram comment sections as places for public conversation.


online communication, rhetoric, public conversation, social media, forensic rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric, deliberative democracy

Full Text: