chapter  14
16 Pages

Social Media Rituals

The Uses of Celebrity Death in Digital Culture
ByJean Burgess, Peta Mitchell, Felix Victor Münch

This chapter discovers the transformations of celebrity in digital culture, before focusing on celebrity deaths understood as media events. It shows that there are considerable historical continuities between the pre-broadcast, broadcast, and social media-dominated eras in the cultural uses of celebrity, both in everyday life and in public culture. The celebrity death as highly mediated public event is largely a twentieth- and twenty-first-century phenomenon. In digital culture, fragmented and diverse publics emerge and activate around highly mediated “acute events” of shared concern. Social media rituals are characterized by the convergence of private and personal audience practices with public discourse, in networked publics. David Bowie’s death is a paradigmatic example of the celebrity death as an acute event: one that formed the basis of a social media ritual, and that set the scene for the seemingly relentless series of celebrity deaths that followed throughout 2016.