A Cultural Sociology of Digital Disruption
Chapter 8. Plural Reactions
[W]hen social differentiation and audience segmentation are the order of the day, we need take account of a plurality of reactions, each with their different constituencies, effectivities and modes of discourse. (McRobbie & Thornton, 1995, p. 564)
This chapter analyzes and discusses reactions to YouTube video clips relating to school shootings. It illustrates how, and under what conditions, comment threads on online videos can function as noise that disrupts the discourse produced by “mainstream” or “official” outlets. The chapter argues that although a moral panic reaction sequence can be clearly identified in news reporting as well as search traffic relating to issues at the intersection of digital media and school shootings, broadly applying the panic perspective produces an oversimplified picture of the emerging new media landscape where audiences play an increasingly active role as co-producers of content.
Before the school shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 and the similar tragedies in Finland’s Jokela in 2007 and Kauhajoki in 2008, the gunmen gave warnings via videos they posted on YouTube. This fact was strongly em ← 111 | 112 → phasized in the news media coverage of these events. TimesOnline referred, in the case of Kauhajoki, to “the YouTube Gunman,” and a dangerous assumption of causality (YouTube equals massacre) was evident in the discourse. Whenever a new medium enters the arena, strikingly similar debates on basic social and cultural norms emerge, and the new medium becomes a rhetorical device in discussions that are actually about something completely different. These...
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