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Online Lecture on Pandemic Storytelling: Jens Schröter/Christoph Ernst and Monika Pietrzak-Franger

When Apr 15, 2021
from 07:00 to 08:30
Where Online (Zoom)
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Jens Schröter and Christoph Ernst (University of Bonn): Data Visualizations and Narrative Strategies in Social Imaginaries of the Corona Pandemic


In our talk we analyze data visualizations and correlated narrations of the Corona pandemic with regard to conflicting imaginaries of the social implications of the crisis. We ask how data visualizations and correlated narrative patterns support imaginaries of social order. Of special interest are explicative visualizations of various possible future developments of the pandemic, leading to conflicting and contested ‘futures’ of the social implications of COVID-19.


Monika Pietrzak-Franger (University of Vienna): (In)Visible Pandemics: COVID-19 and Visual Storytelling

The impact of infectious diseases on cultures, societies, economies, languages and media has been explored by scholars across disciplines. Needless to say, the stories we tell about an illness or a pandemic influence not only the ways in which we conceptualize the causative organism but also how we fathom the consequences of its transmission. It is especially in times of convergence culture and unprecedented (digital) connectivity that they gain in poignancy due to the unparalleled scale and speed of their spread. What is particularly significant about this pandemic, next to the infodemic that it has been accompanied by, is its extraordinary (trans-cultural) medial visibility: the visual storytelling practices that it has generated (and necessitated).

My talk offers a tentative contribution to current discussions of the visual storytelling in times of corona. It explores the uneasy relationship between the necessity of making diseases visible, the mechanisms of legal and visual censorship, and the overall ethics of viewing and spectatorship, including the effects of media visibility on the perception of particular ‘marked’ bodies. More specifically, taking into consideration select press reports, it inspects these in a cultural-historical context, and draws attention to the variety of ways in which the pandemic has (dis)continued some of the tendencies in visual storytelling accompanying the spread of infectious diseases. What is more, it spotlights certain omissions, absences and blank spaces that have, paradoxically, been at the core of this visual overproduction, in order to discuss some of their socio-cultural implications. In this, and adopting a Cultural Studies’ perspective, it positions itself within the field of critical Medical/Health Humanities.


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