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Visualizing the catastrophe. The Images of Italian #Earthquake on Twitter
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Visualizing the catastrophe. The Images of Italian #Earthquake on Twitter


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The paper starts from an apparently simple point of view: on the one hand catastrophes and disasters are relevant visual phenomena, on the other hand scholars must observe Social Network Sites – as …

The paper starts from an apparently simple point of view: on the one hand catastrophes and disasters are relevant visual phenomena, on the other hand scholars must observe Social Network Sites – as Twitter – that are environments based on images sharing.

As we know, nowadays, during the environmental disasters, we are witnessing the emergence of a particular attraction to an idea of fatalism that inevitably belongs to the overwhelming events of the nature. This explains why the catastrophe is an experience that leads to many practices of symbolic reinterpretation.

Now, one of the social spaces in which finding these practices of reinterpretation are the users' images of the natural disasters shared on SNSs.

The paper presents the results of a qualitative research conducted on a sample of 4256 images uploaded on Twitter during the first day of the earthquake that happened in northern Italy May 20, 2012. On the basis of this analysis, a taxonomy of images is built to confirm the hypothesis of the work: that is, during catastrophic events, the image has not just a function of refero, i.e showing the drama, nor exclusively of religo, i.e building social bonds. The images shared through SNSs, instead, aim at giving a symbolic meaning to catastrophe, turning the dramatic experience into an evidence of our vulnerability to the arrogance of human civilization and an opportunity to establish new rituals of socialization and collective regeneration.

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  • 1. Giovanni [.] Boccia Artieri [] Laura [.] Gemini [] Manolo [.] Farci [] Elisabetta [.] Zurovac [] Department of Communication Studies and Humanities University of Urbino Carlo Bo IVSA Congress - The Public Image July 8th-10th 2013 /Goldsmiths, CUCR, University of London
  • 2. The project The sample Twitter during the first day of the #earthquake: 31318 tweet 4256 tweets with images 700 images uploaded and shared Earthquake in northern Italy May 20, 2012 The object Grassroots native image making
  • 3. During catastrophic events, the image has both a function of RE-FERO/INFORMATION i.e showing the drama, and RE-LIGO/RELATIONSHIPS i.e building social bonds The hypothesis of the work
  • 4. & Pictures Since 2010 has been possible seeing pictures without leaving Twitter itself, just clicking on individual tweets which contain links from a variety of supported websites In 2011 Twitter announced its own integrated photo-sharing service that enables users to: • upload a photo • providing photo galleries designed to gather • syndicate all photos that a user/ third-party services has uploaded on Twitter It has always been possible to share images on Twitter linking the url of the photo Public photos are searchable by the #hashtags used to label them
  • 5. Categories of Twitter images common uses during #earthquake
  • 6. 1. The news given by an influencer Huge #sismic tremor NOW #modena #sanfelice. Apparently houses are ok, house interiors destroyed A. Sharing informations/organization (Huges and Palen 2009; Bruns and Burges 2012)
  • 7. A. Sharing informations/organization 2. The damages caused by the earthquake San Felice parsonage backyard destroyed and a car buried by the rubble #earthquake
  • 8. Clock Tower, #FinaleE. Seeing the clock broken in two is impressive… #Terremoto huge rent in the wall of Sant’Agostino’s town hall #terremoto #ferrara
  • 9. I was supposed to work this morning, here is my warehouse when I arrived #Terremoto Poggio Renatico clock tower before and after #terremoto
  • 10. 3. Geo-referenced data FOR THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE EARTHQUAKE EPICENTRE IN MODENA, TAKE A LOOK #terremoto MODENA A. Sharing informations/organization
  • 11. The picture of the bastard with its following little brother #terremoto #terremoto map of the settling tremors
  • 12. B. Community-based “quality check” of spreading information And they still say “slight damages” #terremoto #chiesa di #sanfelice (Mendoza and Poblete 2010; Sutton et al. 2008)
  • 13. I wanted to know what to do and I went on the ANSA site … #terremoto … (ANSA – National Agency Associated Press site out of order) the emotional reaction to the #earthquake of the twittersphere : roller coaster
  • 14. Stefano Venturi, secretary of the Lega Party at Rovato, reports the news of the quake like this. Speechless. [Earthquake in the north of Italy. We apologize for the inconveniences but Padania (a part of the northern region) is moving away (next time we will be gentler).
  • 15. 1. Relief Images C. User-generated crisis narration (Robinson 2009; Liu 2009) Ferrara S. Agostino live: civil defence, citizens, politicians and activists: the true Italy!
  • 16. together with my “family” we are exploring new housing options Still on the street. What did I take out? Cigarettes, wallet, keys, iPONE and family 2. Daily life Images
  • 17. 2. Daily life Images Pardon our thoughtlessnes, but the #quake has done this too and it made us smile while we were walking round frightened
  • 18. Shocked by the quake. Apocalyptic images. Deceased people, buildings and castles destroyed. A tearing in my heart This morning everything is strange, different. The light, the colours and the animals too… And so was I 3. Networked Emotions
  • 19. After a sismic and terrifying awakening, here’s the rainbow #bologna #terremoto The right arm of android is the only victim at Lorenzoni’s home 3. Networked Emotions
  • 20. re-fero + re-ligo: networked witness SOME FIRST REMARKS Building a circulatory narration through images and symbols helped develop the trauma and bring out the relational character that has been enhanced by the use of a social network platform like Twitter
  • 21.