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Pandemics and the Media


Marina Levina

Offering a comprehensive analysis of mediated representations of global pandemics, this book engages with the construction, management, and classification of difference in the global context of a pandemic, to address what it means – culturally, politically, and economically – to live in an infected, diseased body. Marina Levina argues that mediated representations are essential in translating and making sense of difference as a category of subjectivity and as a mode of organizing and distributing change. Using textual analysis of media texts on pandemics and disease, she illustrates how they represent a larger mediascape that drafts stories of global instabilities and global health. Levina explains how the stories we tell about disease matter; that the media is instrumental in constructing and disseminating these stories; and that mediated narratives of pandemics are rooted in global flows of policies, commerce, and populations. Pandemics are, by definition, global crises.
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Chapter 6. Pandemics and Digital Mchia Technologies

← 116 | 117→ ·6·


Over the last several years, public health services and Silicon Valley companies seriously considered how digital media, and in particular social media, could be used as a tool to fight the spread of pandemics. Digital media prevention strategies focused on harnessing online social behaviors to track pandemics and to distribute actionable, consumer-based, information. In this chapter, I address how digital media construct pandemics as a global problem that transcends the boundaries of nation-states. I argue that, consequently, these technological developments constitute citizens’ health in relationship to their online environments and networks in general. I present a theoretical framework that allows for conceptualization of pandemics in the context of network citizenship, which, as any citizenship, constitutes a particular set of loyalties, moralities, affinities, and addictions. The use of digital and social media to overcome uncertainty and the loss of control in global pandemics serves a counterpoint to the chaos of 28 Days Later, discussed in the previous chapter. If we account for the infected, or rather have them account for themselves, there is no reason to “shoot everyone.” Therefore, network citizenship serves as a contrast to the uncertainty of pandemic control in the global world.

Launched in 2008, Google Flu is the grandfather of pandemic-tracking services (Butler, 2013). It relies on data mining of flu-related search terms and ← 117 | 118→ works on an assumption that people are more likely to search for flu information when they themselves are sick (Li & Cardie, 2013). According to various studies, its estimates...

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