A content analysis of the National Park Service's social media presence : the representation and construction of America's Best Idea
Amelia Hope Pingree Wells
May 9, 2018
Department or Program
Sociology - Environmental Studies
I investigated representations of the National Park Service and national park system through a content analysis of the NPS’s Facebook and Twitter pages. I analyzed visual and textual material posted on Facebook between the years of 2009 and 2018 and Twitter between the years of 2014 and 2018. I used the theories of the sociology of knowledge, discourse, and visuality to consider the impacts of hegemonic discourses of the national park system on public perceptions of NPS sites. Additionally, I attempted to determine whether representation of NPS differed between the Trump and Obama administrations. I found that visitors of the NPS’s social media pages are most likely to find visuals of nature and national parks. Visitors are thus exposed to hegemonic discourses that reinforce existing narratives about the national park system related to wilderness, American history, and public use. Finally, the posts emphasize that the primary purpose of the NPS is to support the public use and enjoyment of the national park system. Social media posts differed little between the Trump and Obama administration, with the exception of climate change, where the Trump administration saw no mention of climate change on NPS social media. My research demonstrates that with a few exceptions, the NPS continues to promote very similar narratives and messages to those with which it began over 100 years ago. Ultimately, the NPS fails to push back against decades old hegemonic messages and reinforces problematic systems of knowledge associated with the national park system, such as the invisibility of Native Americans and inequitable representation of minority experience in America.