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From hoaxes, rumors, and conspiracy theories to new opportunities for protest, this panel will explore how the rapid increase in digitally distanced social and work life during the COVID-19 pandemic brought a rapid increase in transgressions (and opportunities to transgress) in our digital world.
2020 is the year of social distancing. Early in the year, many official institutions recommended--or even mandated--that citizens move out of social spaces to combat the spread of the emerging global pandemic. Many of the folk subsequently relocated their busy lives into their homes and other private spaces, leaving once bustling sidewalks, crowded restaurants, and familiar offices empty. Whether communicating with co-workers through virtual meetings or with distant loved ones via social media, our everyday connections during this lockdown are increasingly mediated by digital communication.
In a year defined by the digital connections that are necessitated by social distancing, anxiety about health, politics, and social inequities has flourished. These anxieties, enabled by our networked connections, bloom into rumors and inspire the creation of hoaxes and conspiracy theories that attempt to make sense out of the uncertainty of these “unprecedented times.”
From conspiracy theories involving the spread of the novel coronavirus through the signals carried by cellular towers to environmental protestors forming “virtual human chains” on Instagram, this panel will explore how the rapid increase in digital and distanced work-life has led to a proliferation of both folkloric expression in belief-bases genres and protest actions that both extend those genres and challenge the digital media where they are emerging. These new digital norms present new forms of transgression for purposes both noble and nefarious.