How to Have Social Media in an Invisible Pandemic1

Hepatitis C in the Time of H1N1

Lisa Cartwright


This essay examines the use of social media as platforms for public education about pandemics, focusing on the case of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Lisa Cartwright considers the 2009 H1N1 outbreak and its designation as a pandemic by organizations like the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comparing the public social media management of this pandemic to the media campaigns mounted to address previous outbreaks and pandemics. Using the example of hepatitis C (HCV), a pandemic of long duration managed without the same sensibility of urgency and crisis that marked the H1N1 campaigns, Cartwright analyzes the ways in which notions of temporality inform the pandemic concept, considering the mediation of HCV against the example of the heavy mediation of H1N1 in campaigns which were both market-oriented and driven by anxiety about pandemic futurity. This approach is particularly troubling in that it tends to miss pandemics like hepatitis C with a tendency to manifest slowly and imperceptibly, with an invisible but massive presence that is compounded by public health inattention. It is proposed that the chronicity of the hepatitis C virus does not match the the temporality of social media, which is immediate and fast, and of health communication, which is also organized around immediacy and emergence, and also futurity and potential ...

Get The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.