Towards a Methodology of Visual Analysis on Twitter. the Earthquake in Northern Italy
Traditional media represent the catastrophe with almost known strategies – both in the entertainment frame and in order to fulfill their informative role using precise selective criteria – otherwise social media have to be considered as different, if not new, contests of production and circulation of the catastrophical imagery.
It is sure that in this cases visual communication – in other words the production, diffusion and usage of images – has a central role for the symbolic handling of the natural determinism (Durkheim).
From these assumptions, the paper presents the results of a research conducted on a sample of 4257 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, it is proposed a typology of images to sustain a first and general work hypothesis finding that during catastrophical events, the image has not only a re-fero function as an evidence of the ambient trauma, nor just a re-ligo function as social sharing of drama. The images shared on social networks are answering to the need of reprocessing in a symbolic way the catastrophical trauma, transforming it into an efficient occasion to activate new rituals of socialization and collective sharing.
This research focuses on Twitter peculiarity – as a primarily textual medium and characterized by precise connection dynamics between the users – to detect, by the application of the Social Network Analysis, the weight of the circulation of some influent images in order to spot the iconic images and to describe the social networks which explain their emersion and circulation.