Presenter's Name(s)

Andrew RidgewayFollow

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Jean Bessette

Status

Graduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

English

Primary Research Category

Arts & Humanities

Presentation Title

Digital Affect: Grief and the Rhetorical Situation After the Las Vegas Shooting

Time

9:00 AM

Location

Mildred Livak Ballroom

Abstract

Scholars within and beyond the field of rhetoric have acknowledged how the advent of social media platforms like Twitter have restructured every aspect of communication theory, from notions of authorial intent to how we understand audience. While the rhetorical implications of social media have been widely studied, scholars of rhetoric have scarcely begun to theorize how Twitter radically changes how we think about mourning in the wake of a national tragedy like a mass shooting. The 2017 Las Vegas shooting illustrates how Twitter functions as a site where people come together to express feelings of shock, grief and outrage, pray for victims, share stories of bravery, eulogize the dead and struggle with the implications of their own mortality. My research examines thousands of tweets from October 1-7, 2017 (the week after the Las Vegas shooting) through the lens of psychoanalysis to interrogate how Twitter users adopt a variety of rhetorical strategies to write (and rewrite) the death of strangers as an event with personal and political significance. Writing death is a practice that does the following rhetorical work: it reframes Twitter as an invitational space where individuals can express grief in ways that would typically remain unacknowledged in other public spaces; puts conflicting interpretations of death and tragedy in conversation with one another; and generates calls of action that transform both digital and material spaces alike.

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Digital Affect: Grief and the Rhetorical Situation After the Las Vegas Shooting

Scholars within and beyond the field of rhetoric have acknowledged how the advent of social media platforms like Twitter have restructured every aspect of communication theory, from notions of authorial intent to how we understand audience. While the rhetorical implications of social media have been widely studied, scholars of rhetoric have scarcely begun to theorize how Twitter radically changes how we think about mourning in the wake of a national tragedy like a mass shooting. The 2017 Las Vegas shooting illustrates how Twitter functions as a site where people come together to express feelings of shock, grief and outrage, pray for victims, share stories of bravery, eulogize the dead and struggle with the implications of their own mortality. My research examines thousands of tweets from October 1-7, 2017 (the week after the Las Vegas shooting) through the lens of psychoanalysis to interrogate how Twitter users adopt a variety of rhetorical strategies to write (and rewrite) the death of strangers as an event with personal and political significance. Writing death is a practice that does the following rhetorical work: it reframes Twitter as an invitational space where individuals can express grief in ways that would typically remain unacknowledged in other public spaces; puts conflicting interpretations of death and tragedy in conversation with one another; and generates calls of action that transform both digital and material spaces alike.