During the last week we took part to IVSA 2013 Annual Conference:The Public Image. We presented the paper “Visualizing the catastrophe. The Images of Italian Earthquake on Twitter” into the panel “The Public Image of Social Disruption” – chair Il-Tschung Lim, NCCR Iconic Criticism Eikones, Basel (Switzerland).
The paper presents a first range of results of an in progress qualitative research conducted on a sample of 4256 Twitter containing images during the first day of the earthquake that happened in northern Italy May 20, 2012; we have acquired all the Tweet containing the keyword # earthquake with a software called YourTwapperKeeper.
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.
This small survey shows that from a specific visual quality of twitter, users have contributed to the development of the collective form of the earthquake in Emilia Romagna. This visual quality is constituted by the specific convergence between use of locative media (smartphone) – that allow you to produce a real-time visual storytelling – and circulation of images between social networks connected by Twitter.
Most of the images that have been shared and re-twitted are not those spread by information channels but they are strictly connected to personal experiences and to connect with those of others. 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.
In this way the twitter users’ acted as communicative networked witnesses; either through their own images and through the circulation of photos and pictures of others. So they composing the imaginary of the event, located in the space of digital communication.
The full presentation used during speech is here: