Twitter images and persona construction: a case study of Pope Francis
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 12:12 by Ann Hine
This study explores how Pope Francis' audience constructs his persona by tweeting images through the @pontifex English account and how his followers share and interpret these tweets. Critical textual analysis of selected tweets show how Pope Francis' audience engage with his nominated Franciscan values of integrity, poverty, humility, compassion and respect. Also revealed is the way Tweeters sometimes directly illustrate the historical links between Pope Francis and St Francis of Assisi, the futility of conflict as a pathway to peace and how the power of compassion, integrity and respect can promote healing and sustainability. The study also explores the affordances of the Twitter platform in enabling persona construction. It finds that Tweeters curate images and text and creatively position them, allowing messages to be retweeted across the world, enabling a global audience to come together, with the image of Pope Francis becoming the intertextual sign to connote cultural meanings around peace, poverty and the environment. In our ever-increasing world of visual and online culture, this research makes a useful contribution to the emerging interdisciplinary field of persona studies. It offers insights into how Twitter followers construct the persona of an enigmatic global figure, while also identifying areas for future research.