Pandemic-Incited Intermediated Communication| Communicating Through Chaos in the Webtoon Parasocial Intimacy Chamber

Brian Yecies, Dingkun Wang, Mehrdad Amirghasemi, Kishan Kariippanon, Ming Lu


This study investigates some of the communicative practices displayed by readers of vertically scrolling digital comics known as webtoons. A big-data emotion detection technique is used to identify, categorize, and analyze the contents of more than 14 million comments posted during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors explore the technical affordances of the self-publishing CANVAS section of the site to demonstrate how an expanding cohort of readers use CANVAS as a chamber for communicating feelings, sharing commiserations, and offering collegial support. In so doing, they contribute to the improvement of participants’ well-being and differentiate themselves from other digital platform users who comment solely on stories, characters, and aesthetics. As such, their parasocial interaction transforms the webtoon format, which has yet to be fully investigated, into a communication platform where the “co-creating engagement” of readers generates a sense of intimacy at a distance. The conclusion highlights theoretical implications surrounding this communal digital technology of the self in the context of artificial intelligence.


webtoons, emotion detection, engagement, social media entertainment, platformization

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