New Criticals

The front page of reddit features material community members have upvoted, because it’s interesting, amusing, disturbing, enlightening, outrageous or entertaining. The voting system is kind of like a high school popularity contest – only one run by geeks. Each submission to the site is awarded “karma” or a score based on the total number of upvotes (thumbs-up) minus the number of downvotes (thumbs-down) with some fuzzing involved to discourage scammers and those who would game the system. In terms of determining visibility of a given comment or submission, newer submissions/postings will rank higher than older ones, and the first ten votes on a given submission are weighted the same as the next one hundred (Salihefendic, 2010). In addition, material that has received mostly upvotes will be ranked more highly than material which has received a mixed version of upvotes and downvotes.  As other researchers have shown, a kind of power-law dynamic takes over, where material that is already upvoted receives more upvotes over time because it is more visible (higher up) on the page.

It’s important to note that reddit is a pseudo-anonymous space – and this shapes many of the interactions on the site’s subreddits. Individuals may feel more free to disclose sensitive information about their private lives on /r/sex, for example, because there is no “real name” policy (Hogan, 2013). But because it’s a pseudo-anonymous platform, and not a fully anonymous one, accounts can gain or lose reputation over time. Certain users become anointed with a kind of reddit celebrity – with their contributions garnering lots of karma and attention from the community. Some of these popular accounts playfully engage with the reddit community. These “novelty accounts” often feature usernames that describe a bit about the account’s purpose (like “AWildSketchAppears,” or “ShittyWatercolour,” both of which post images in lieu of written comments). Others are known for their unique expertise in a particular area, such as “EditingandLayout,” a redditor who regularly contributes high-quality GIFs of scenes from movies and television.