How Digital Communities Cope: Cyber-vigilantism Following the Boston Marathon Bombings

On April 15th, 2013, two men and two pressure cooker bombs shook Boston to its core. One of Boston’s most treasured traditions, the Boston Marathon, had been marred by a terror attack that left the city at a standstill for four days. Following the disaster, however, online platforms were overwhelmed by the dynamic responses of global citizens. This globalized experience would not have been possible without the nearly universal accessibility of social media platforms; those who could not experience the paranoia of a deserted urban landscape or hear the gunfire through their locked windows could follow the events in near current time through live tweets and Reddit updates, receiving information in its most candid form, untouched by inevitable mass media biases. Social media platforms created rich environments for the gradual rebuilding of the Boston community through mediums such as crowd funding and symbolic memorializations in the form of #BostonStrong[1] hashtags. Some utilized these platforms for online vigilantism which, many argue, harmed local families and fed paranoia. Mass media’s[2] characterizations of social media ranged from crucial information sources to breeding grounds for toxic misinformation, a debate likewise evident in current scholarship. Scholars have widely discussed the “psychological effects of terrorism on the individual”[3] and both the harmful and beneficial impacts of online “social amplification”[4] through digitally mediated and communal reactions to the attack on Boston. These theorizations, however, neglect to consider the role of vigilantism as a virtual coping process, indicative of the current global, social, and interactive contexts of the digital age. The contributory potential of social media environments enable a form of simulated conclusivity which caters to the innate human drive for control; few scholars have examined how this impulse to impose control over a chaotic situation, like the bombings, define the rituals of digital vigilantes. I will argue that virtually-mediated vigilantism gives rise to a globalized yet disparate task force of ordinary citizens, seeking comfort in fantasies of control.

Established scholarship regarding digitally mediated social movements largely attends to the constructivity, or lack thereof, of social media usage in disaster contexts. Though few authors have written in depth about cyber-vigilantism, many authors have examined the emerging role of social media in citizen journalism.[5] Perhaps the most compelling subset to emerge from scholarship on citizen journalism, cyber-vigilantism is the seemingly relentless pursuit of justice through amateur sleuthing on digital platforms. Current research debates both the benefits and drawbacks of broader citizen journalism on what is often called the “participatory web,” a dynamic environment characterized by “decentralized information/media sharing, portability, storage capacity, collaboration, and user-generated content.”[6] Some social scientists fervently criticize the uprising of citizen reportage, citing “misleading rumors, lapses in judgment and outright disinformation” as panic inducing and ultimately harmful.[7] Others extol the benefits of “democratically fringed, participatory society where community-minded citizens do their part,” claiming that a breakdown of the barriers between professional and citizen journalists, between trained police forces and citizen vigilantes, promotes justice and healing during crisis situations.[8] This democratizing trend underlies the paradigm shift from what I would call “lone-wolf”[9] vigilantism to crowd sourced vigilantism, with “many members of the public…no longer simply news consumers but…news participators.”[10] While scholars attend to the constructivity—or destructivity—of crowd sourced, digitally-mediated social media responses to disaster, I intend to diverge from this limiting conversation and instead explore what exactly drives people to engage so directly, and often anxiously, with crises through online platforms.

Experiences of disasters in the digital age are almost always mediated by the Internet, fostering a sense of detached and immaterial engagement with the crisis. Yet this engagement is simultaneously rendered proximal and viscerally immediate, regardless of location or affiliation. Scholarly theorizations regarding the dynamics of online vigilantism often neglect this globalized social condition. For those living in the Boston area, the four days following the bombings were characterized by a looming sense of crippling uncertainty and fear. As the Boston Police searched the city for the Tsarnaev brothers, twenty blocks of the city were shut down and residents were ordered to shelter stay in place. Although people living outside of Boston may not have been in physical danger, causing widespread panic and fear is a major goal of terrorist attacks, particularly in the digital age. Holman attends to the tendency of mass media to “[extend] the boundaries of local disasters, transmitting their impact far beyond the directly exposed population and turning them into collective traumas.”[11] Her theorization, however, neglects the power of social media platforms in making local concerns the subject of globalized trauma, the immediacy of the Internet amplifying ripples of anxiety which spread far from Boston. This spread is made evident by Twitter user @staygoldp0nyboy, whose profile indicates he lives over a thousand miles away in the Minneapolis area—he tweeted that “This Boston bombing shit is actually really fucking scary bc they legit don’t know who did this yet and we have the best intel in the world.”[12] Endless tweets echo this sentiment, each one an individual contribution to a digitally mediated coping platform. This need for coping was catalyzed by amateur journalists, whose reportage “invited unruly, disruptive ways of seeing, its impulsive materiality threatening to disobey more conventionalised (sic) conventionalized rules of inclusion and exclusion consistent with mainstream journalism’s preferred framings.”[13] Such unconventional, unbiased reportage is abundant on video sharing sites like Youtube. One amateur video, filmed by a man standing very close to the bombs, captures a visceral and unsettling portrait of the event. After the first blast, the citizen videographer runs toward the carnage, with the camera shaking and unsteady. Viewers are confronted with the sounds of sirens and screams and the sights of destruction and panic. The unedited, unframed nature of this first-person footage engrosses its viewers in an exceedingly passive, and thus helpless, spectatorship.[14] CNN’s coverage of the same event, however, is significantly less stirring, as it utilizes primarily aerial shots, which distances viewers from the victims of the attacks, obscuring their faces as part of an anonymous crowd. Also obfuscated are the sounds of the bombings—viewers hear only the narration of newscasters framing the horror of the situation, rather than experiencing the horror firsthand as in the amateur video.[15] The carefully produced narratives of mass media platforms like CNN present filtered representations of crises, thus decreasing the intensity of emotional response—essentially telling viewers how they should feel. Although mass media is quite effective at rapidly disseminating information, it is not conducive to the virtually mediated proximity created by social media platforms.

The immaterial, yet simultaneously visceral, engagement enabled by social media platforms led to a sense of inconclusivity that transcended Boston to become a globalized social phenomenon. The trauma of the Boston Marathon bombings is in part defined by a disruptive instability around information gaps. The internet was immediately flooded by these absences, both literal and figurative—two explosions transformed familiar places into volatilized, chaotic environments and blew the city apart, leaving gaping absences in their wake, whether that absence took the form of a leg, a perpetrator, or a finish line. Such absences gave rise to tensions among an online global audience, an audience which as a result migrated “into the realm of the symbolic, the virtual, where the illusion of the mastery of absence” enabled them to cope with their trauma.[16] Twitter user @UmmMaryam evokes this tension, tweeting that “the Boston bombing is so random, three blasts and there’s still no suspects.”[17] This user elucidates an almost mathematical inequivalency which captures the unresolved nature of the bombings—there were “three blasts,” but “no suspects.” @UmmMaryam’s factual error[18] of there being “three blasts” attests to the confusion immediately following[19] the bombings; more importantly, however, the inequality she evokes captures the distressing information holes which pervade cyberspace. @UmmMaryam voices this globalized trauma with an interesting juxtaposition in her choice of language—she calls the bombing “random,” referring to the uncertainty regarding the suspects’ motives and location. As the bombers were eventually arraigned and more information was revealed, it became clear that the bombings were anything but random; in fact, they were a carefully calculated act of terrorism carried out in the name of religion. In the four days following the bombings, however, even the FBI did not seem to know this; these information holes thus set up a condition of global ontological instability. This instability was heightened by the wide array of photojournalism available online, much of which depicted the confusion surrounding the manhunt for the suspects. A widely circulated image shows a family being removed from their house so the police could search it (Figure 1).[20] This family home, once a stable environment, was made unstable by the very information holes that prompted the manhunt. This photo represents a disquieting corporeal manifestation of the informational absences that evoked a global response. The attacks on Boston not only destabilized a treasured tradition and uprooted local families, but also troubled a vast global community, necessitating a complex and digitally mediated response. As the democratic nature of social media platforms breaks down the time-honored boundaries of professional journalism like verified sources and measured objectivity, users have become “both producers and users of content,” empowered to contribute to the “complex information-and-communication environment” embodied by social media.[21] These contributions represent a crowd-sourced initiative to reconcile the specific qualities of the disaster, which engender collective trauma.

Perhaps the most traumatic aspect of the Boston bombings was the abrupt halting of the marathon and the subsequent unprecedented shutdown of a large part of the city; this state of stasis, in juxtaposition with information holes, gave rise to an ontological instability, which in turn mobilized a global community of online users. As soon as the bombs exploded, the marathon was stopped, thousands of runners held motionless before the finish line. Kevin Donovan captures the disappointment and stasis of these runners in a tweet that describes the situation as “incredible and heartbreaking”[22] (Figure 2).[23] This tweet includes a photo of the runners held static, the empty road and eager spectators in front of them. These spectators lined up to watch runners pass by, but the imposed threat of stagnancy had robbed them of their role as active spectators, replacing their dynamic celebration of movement with the helpless passivity of an interrupted race. With runners no longer running and spectators no longer spectating, the breakdown of these categories gave rise to an unforeseen instability that was amplified by its dissemination through social media. This unnerving tension built over the next few days, reaching its peak during a daylong manhunt, which shut down a large part of the city. Although only those living in the twenty blocks that were shut down were tangibly affected by this motionless state, “the high speed and volume of communication enabled through social media platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook transform the scope and scale with which spatial meanings…may be circulated and revised.”[24] Amendola’s photograph, depicting the normally bustling Kenmore Square as a deserted urban landscape devoid of traffic and people, serves as an example of the kind of images that disseminated the trauma of stasis (Figure 3).[25] The disturbing emptiness of this busy square is heightened by the high camera angle, a perspective that gives a sense of diminution, a harrowingly accurate portrayal of a city scared into hiding. This cowering depiction of Boston invites viewers to provide repair, disseminating a pervasive sense of collective helplessness. The CITGO sign, a landmark well-known among locals, even confronts viewers with a reminder of the Boston’s normal state of movement—the word “GO” contained in the sign itself serves as a reminder[26] that things should be moving and changing, exacerbating the trauma of citywide stasis. The prolonged nature of the disaster in Boston led to an emergent sense of collective helplessness that, mediated by social media platforms, spanned the globe. In order to cope with the troubling passivity of distant, virtually mediated interactions with unresolved disaster, cyber-vigilantes pursue relevant content, deconstruct and synthesize it into something seemingly conclusive, and then disseminate it to a global audience.

The crisis conditions created by the Boston bombings engendered diverse global responses, which were driven by the cultural phenomenon wherein online users faced with mediated trauma anxiously fabricate a sense of control. What innate human quality governs this seemingly universal drive? As Jeffrey Douglas contends, humans derive pleasure from the illusion of control over that which is uncontrollable, the “fantasy of mastery or control over unwieldy reality.”[27] Cyber-vigilantism represents an unprecedented collaboration between professional and citizen journalists as a way to reconcile information holes, the absences of information that underscored the chaotic threats of the Boston bombings. In the wake of tragedy, the democratic immediacy of social media platforms enables “organizations and publics [to] work together to fill [information holes] through creating and sharing information, often in real time.”[28] The Boston Globe actively engaged with citizen journalists as it transformed its homepage into a live blog where anybody, even nonsubscribers, could access and share salient information. On April 19th, the day of the city-wide lockdown, Boston Globe’s homepage commands a reader’s attention with an enormous, bold-lettered headline which warns, “RESIDENTS TOLD TO STAY INSIDE AS HUNT CONTINUES.” The webpage also includes important announcements such as the shutdown of public transit and newly-discovered information about the suspects, juxtaposed with a slideshow of stirring images depicting abandoned streets completely absent of motion, followed by SWAT teams searching houses in a frenzied yet organized imposition of order onto motion.[29] This endless and dynamic live stream of the situation in Boston, through the progression from stillness (e.g. announcements about public transit shutdown and abandoned streets) to movement (e.g. SWAT teams going house to house), represents an attempt to fix the problem of stasis. Online users all over the world followed this poignant and unsettling live blog, becoming intimately invested in the wellbeing of Boston despite being physically removed from the crisis. On the subreddit /r/findbostonbombers,[30] which is infamous for “groundlessly speculating on the identity of the attacker or attackers based on photos and videos from the scene,”[31] moderators explicitly condemn the idea of crowdsourced citizen journalism, as evidenced by a rule on the sidebar which claims “r/FindBostonBombers is a discussion forum, not a journalistic media outlet. We do not strive, nor pretend, to release journalist-quality content for the sake of informing the public.”[32] This rule points to the internalized, even self-serving, drive for conclusivity—cyber-vigilantes are not interested in crafting a properly sourced, journalistic narrative; they are instead driven by a need to repair an ontological stability, a need for illusions of control. The digital inhabitants of both the Boston Globe blog and /r/findbostonbombers were subjected to a deep tension between their desire to provide material repair to a city in crisis and their inability to take control of the unfolding disaster in Boston through digital mediums. In order to resolve this tension, Internet users resorted to online vigilante activism, an accessible and immediate medium through which they could participate in a virtually-mediated simulation of conclusivity.

Enabled by its inherently participatory nature, cyber-vigilantism gives rise to a global community working collaboratively to impose a narrative structure upon the atemporality of a digitally mediated experience with disaster, effectively “solving” the problem of inconclusivity. A crisis is generally not considered to be finished until one can clearly say exactly what happened; thus ascribing a timeline to the Boston bombings allowed online users to finally achieve the conclusivity they so ardently sought by establishing a clear, temporal end to the crisis. Although the curated nature of mass media inevitably imposed narrative structures upon the Boston bombings, online users resisted these framings. One Twitter user predicted that “again this sick act carried out by EXTREMISTS in Boston will stigmatise (sic) innocent Muslims through mass media indoctrination #academictweet.”[33] Hanspal’s choice of the word “indoctrination” evokes the vast social force of mass media framings and the drive to escape them. The stigmatization of the Islamic faith is but one imposed narrative which users opposed, with other tweets decrying the tendencies of mass media toward speculation and fear-mongering.[34], [35] These criticisms of mass media elucidate the online community’s preference for the “gritty rawness of [citizen journalism]’s authenticity.”[36] This drive for unfiltered reality manifested most extensively through Reddit, where users compiled comprehensive live threads describing the details of the manhunt on April 19th. Nine separate threads, each one containing updates[37] which are often mere minutes apart, combine to create a cohesive, temporally organized archive of the manhunt from beginning to end.[38] This crowdsourced timeline rectifies the inherent atemporality of the Boston bombings, a troubling characteristic of the disaster which was rooted not only in the prolonged period in which it took place, but also the inability of monolithic news organizations to keep up with the rapidly changing situation at hand. Reddit commenter DisterDan, apparently perturbed by the lack of immediacy in mainstream news outlets, observed “CNN is like 40 minutes behind.”[39] Many users saw Reddit as a more accurate and timely source of information, with another user praising the way in which “Reddit and it’s (sic) community are performing more efficiently than any other news source I’ve found.”[40] This user’s characterization of Redditors as a “community” illustrates the communal sense of purpose that emerged around the construction of temporal narratives, and the consequent simulation of conclusivity that formed around this community. Although the “beauty of super fast interconnection” fosters the creation of such productive collectives, the democratic process of a disaster’s mediation through social media can have overwhelming ramifications for online inhabitants.[41] In the days following the bombings, countless sources, both journalistic and voyeuristic, professional and amateur, flooded the internet with a deluge of information. The inherently uncertain nature of the bombings resulted in narratives that were often conflicting and disorganized. Reddit, by compiling a detailed aggregation of information from police scanners, citizen journalists, and news organizations, lent a comforting sense of temporality to distressingly atemporal online representations. Time is, by definition, an immaterial construct, and thus time cannot be mastered in the way that one might be able to clean up debris or help the wounded. Yet the imposition of temporality became the most important of various illusions of control, with the assemblage of a timeline being the most tangible intangibility in the wake of disaster. This fabricated temporality stabilized the inherent chaos of the Boston bombings, thus imbuing incessantly atemporal digital mediations with the conclusivity so many global users sought to construct.

The Boston Marathon bombings are considered to be the “first atrocity to be covered in real-time for a mass audience on social media.”[42] During the tense days following the bombings, Boston hosted an online population many times bigger than its physical population, with users all over the world becoming virtual citizens of Boston through their participation in a detached, yet proximal, drive for conclusivity. These virtual citizens, confronted with the ontological instabilities of absence and stasis, sought stability through social media platforms; because they could not provide material repair to Boston, these technologically-enabled users became self-appointed seekers of justice who might have resorted to the gallows in a previous era.[43] Cyber-vigilantism, ironically, exacerbated the chaos it was meant to resolve, with misidentified suspects and inaccurate information blurring the line between truth and mere speculation. Understanding the modes by which online users interact with digitally mediated disaster will be invaluable in a society increasingly globalized by the interconnectivity of social media platforms. My research could be extended to discover not only how the global online communities respond to a diverse range of digitally mediated crises, such as natural disasters or prominent deaths, but also what would be an optimal digital design for post-disaster communication. How might digital mediation change the way we perceive, respond to, and memorialize crises, even outside of social media contexts?

 

 

Figure 1

Krupa, Charles. Boston Police search a house in Watertown during a day-long manhunt for

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Digital image. Radio Boston. 90.9 WBUR, 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 7

Nov. 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2

Donovan, Kevin J. (Kevin_J_Donovan). “Another view from where they stopped runners at

#bostonmarathon. Incredible and heartbreaking.” 15 April 2013, 4:11 PM. Tweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3

Amendola, Elise. Typically bustling Kenmore Square is deserted during a shelter-in-place order

issued during the manhunt. Digital image. Oregon Live. Advance Digital, 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 7 Nov. 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Allan, Stuart. “Reformulating Photojournalism: Interweaving Professional and Citizen

Photo-reportage of the Boston Bombings.” Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives. Eds.

Stuart Allan and Einar Thorsen. New York: Peter Lang, 2014. 155-169.

Allan, Stuart. “Witnessing in Crisis: Photo-Reportage of Terror Attacks in Boston and London.”

Media, War & Conflict 7, no. 2 (2014): 133-51.

Bartlett, Jamie. “Social media is ‘big rumour mill'” BBC News. BBC, 22 Apr. 2013.

Boston Globe. 19 April 2013.

BrandyonTX. “I’m in awe of connectivity….” 19 April 2013, 7:06 PM. Online comment on

JpDeathBlade. “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation” Reddit: r/news.

19 April 2013.

Brenner, Philip S., Jessica L. Leblanc, Anthony M. Roman, and Naa Oyo A. Kwate. “Safety

and Solidarity After the Boston Marathon Bombing: A Comparison of Three Diverse Boston Neighborhoods.” Sociological Forum 30, no. 1 (2015): 40-61.

Chen, Adrian. “Your Guide To The Boston Marathon Bombing Amateur Internet

Crowd-Sleuthing.” Gawker. April 17, 2013.

DisterDan. “CNN is like 40 minutes behind” 19 April 2013, 7:32 PM. Online comment on

JpDeathBlade. “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation” Reddit: r/news. 19 April 2013.

Douglas, Jeffrey. “Wooden Reels and the Maintenance of Virtual Life: Gaming and the Death

Drive in a Digital Age.” ESC 37.1 (2011): 85-106.

Elwood, Sarah, and Katharyne Mitchell. “Technology, Memory, and Collective Knowing.”

Cultural Geographies 22, no. 1 (2015): 147-54.

globalbreakingnews. “Amateur footage Boston bomb attack.” Online video clip. YouTube.

15 April 2013.

Hanspal, Sophie (sophie_hanspal). “Again this sick act carried out by EXTREMISTS in Boston

will stigmatise innocent Muslims through mass media indoctrination #academictweet” 15

April 2013, 4:34 PM. Tweet.

Holman, E. Alison, Dana Rose Garfin, and Roxane Cohen Silver. “Media’s Role in

Broadcasting Acute Stress following the Boston Marathon Bombings.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, no. 1 (2013): 93-98.

jesusthug. “This kind of news we are witnessing….” 19 April 2013, 6:09 PM. Online comment

on JpDeathBlade. “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation” Reddit:

r/news. 19 April 2013.

Jones, Darren J. (MrThingamajigs). “Wow mass panic and chaos has really broken out in

Boston … The media are partly to blame for so many unconfirmed and false reports.” 15

April 2013, 2:31 PM. Tweet.

JpDeathBlade. “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation” Reddit: r/news.

Reddit. 19 April 2013.

Kitchen, Sean (RCPress_Sean). “Thoughts go out to the deceased in Boston.  Don’t let the mass

media fear monger us into believe it was an Al Queda attack.  Shame on MSNBC” 15

April 2013, 1:17 PM. Tweet.

Lin, Yu-Ru, and Drew Margolin. “The Ripple of Fear, Sympathy and Solidarity during the

Boston Bombings.” EPJ Data Science 3, no. 1 (2014): 31.

Liu, Brooke, Julia D. Fraustino, and Yan Jin. “Social Media use during Disasters: How Information Form and Source Influence Intended Behavioral Responses.” Communication Research (2015).

Marx, Gary T. “The Public as Partner? Technology can make Us Auxiliaries as Well as

Vigilantes.” IEEE Security & Privacy 11, no. 5 (2013): 56-61.

McCaughey, Martha. Cyberactivism on the Participatory Web. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Narayan, Bhuva. “Social Media Use and Civil Society: From Everyday Information Behaviours

to Clickable Solidarity.” Cosmopolitan Civil Societies 5, no. 3 (2013): 32-53.

oops777. /r/findbostonbombers. Reddit, n.d.

Rose, Michelle Katherine Larson. “Public Engagement with the Criminal Justice System in the Age of Social Media.” Oñati socio-legal series 4, no. 4: 771-798.

staygoldp0nyboy. “This Boston bombing shit is actually really fucking scary bc they legit don’t

know who did this yet and we have the best intel in the world.” 16 April 2013, 7:23 AM.

Tweet.

TelevisionOpens. “CNN Breaking News – Boston Bombings.” Online video clip. YouTube.

19 December 2013.

UmmMaryam. “the Boston bombing is so random, three blasts and there’s still no suspects.” 15

April 2013, 3:16 PM. Tweet.

Volpp, Leti. “The Boston Bombers.” Fordham Law Review 82, no. 5 (2014): 2209-2220.

[1] Several different hashtags were used as symbolic memorializations (e.g. #prayforboston), but #BostonStrong became the most prevalent and most enduring example.

[2] “Mass media” refers to major television, online, and print organizations which are solely journalistic, such as CNN, New York Times, Boston Globe, etc.

[3] Philip S. Brenner, Jessica L. Leblanc, Anthony M. Roman, and Naa Oyo A. Kwate, “Safety

and Solidarity After the Boston Marathon Bombing: A Comparison of Three Diverse Boston Neighborhoods,” Sociological Forum 30, no. 1 (2015): 41.

[4] Yu-Ru Lin and Drew Margolin, “The Ripple of Fear, Sympathy and Solidarity during the Boston Bombings,” EPJ Data Science 3, no. 1 (2014): 31.

[5]  “Citizen journalism” as used in this paper refers to the emerging trend in which ordinary bystanders capture and report on events through mediums such as photos, videos, live tweets, etc.

[6] Martha McCaughey, Cyberactivism on the Participatory Web (New York: Routledge, 2014), 1.

[7] Stuart Allan, “Witnessing in Crisis: Photo-Reportage of Terror Attacks in Boston and London,” Media, War & Conflict 7, no. 2 (2014): 136.

[8] Gary T. Marx, “The Public as Partner? Technology Can Cake Us Auxiliaries as Well as Vigilantes,” IEEE Security & Privacy 11, no. 5 (2013): 57.

[9] This term is common in rhetoric surrounding traditional vigilantes, referring to the archetype of a reclusive, isolated, radical extremist.

[10] Michelle Katherine Larson Rose, “Public Engagement with the Criminal Justice System in the Age of Social Media,” Oñati socio-legal series 4, no. 4: 774.

[11] E. Alison Holman, Dana Rose Garfin, and Roxane Cohen Silver, “Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, no. 1 (2013): 93.

[12] staygoldp0nyboy, “This Boston bombing shit is actually really fucking scary bc they legit don’t know who did this yet and we have the best intel in the world,” 16 April 2013, 7:23 AM. Tweet.

[13] Allan, “Witnessing in Crisis,” 146.

[14] globalbreakingnews, “Amateur footage Boston bomb attack,” Online video clip, YouTube, 15 April 2013.

 

[15] TelevisionOpens, “CNN Breaking News – Boston Bombings,” Online video clip, YouTube, 19 December 2013.

[16] Jeffrey Douglas, “Wooden Reels and the Maintenance of Virtual Life: Gaming and the Death Drive in a Digital Age,” ESC 37, no. 1 (2011): 94.

[17] UmmMaryam, “the Boston bombing is so random, three blasts and there’s still no suspects,” 15 April 2013, 3:16 PM. Tweet.

[18] There were actually only two blasts.

[19] The tweet in question was sent at 3:16 PM, only 26 minutes after the bombs exploded.

[20] Please see the online version of this paper at yris.yira.org to view figures.

[21] Bhuva Narayan, “Social Media Use and Civil Society: From Everyday Information Behaviours to Clickable Solidarity,” Cosmopolitan Civil Societies 5, no. 3 (2013): 34.

[22] Although likely a coincidence, the word “heartbreak” holds special meaning for those familiar with the Boston Marathon—”Heartbreak Hill,” which these runners did not reach, is a very difficult portion of the course which often thwarts runners just miles before the finish line.

[23] Please see the online version of this paper at yris.yira.org to view figures.

[24] Sarah Elwood and Katharyne Mitchell, “Technology, Memory, and Collective Knowing,” Cultural Geographies 22, no. 1 (2015): 148.

[25] Please see the online version of this paper at yris.yira.org to view figures.

[26] Interestingly enough, Citgo is a distributor of transportation fuels, another nuanced reminder of motion.

[27] Douglas, “Gaming and the Death Drive in a Digital Age,” 93.

[28] Brooke Liu, Julia D. Fraustino, and Yan Jin, “Social Media use during Disasters: How Information Form and Source Influence Intended Behavioral Responses,” Communication Research (2015): 2.

[29] Boston Globe, April 19, 2013.

[30] Unfortunately, even Internet archives did not allow me to access the now private subreddit where the most controversial examples of cyber-vigilantism precipitated. Close readings of such posts would have made for much richer analysis, but I instead must rely on secondhand accounts when dealing with r/findbostonbombers.

[31] Adrian Chen, “Your Guide To The Boston Marathon Bombing Amateur Internet Crowd-Sleuthing,” Gawker, April 17, 2013.

[32] oops777, /r/findbostonbombers, Reddit.

[33] Sophie Hanspal, “Again this sick act carried out by EXTREMISTS in Boston will stigmatise innocent Muslims through mass media indoctrination #academictweet,” 15 April 2013, 4:34 PM. Tweet.

[34] Darren J. Jones (MrThingamajigs), ““Wow mass panic and chaos has really broken out in Boston … The media are partly to blame for so many unconfirmed and false reports.” 15 April 2013, 2:31 PM. Tweet.

[35] Sean Kitchen (RCPress_Sean), “Thoughts go out to the deceased in Boston.  Don’t let the mass media fear monger us into believe it was an Al Queda attack.  Shame on MSNBC” 15 April 2013, 1:17 PM. Tweet.

[36] Stuart Allen, “Reformulating Photojournalism: Interweaving Professional and Citizen Photo-reportage of the Boston Bombings,” Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives, Eds. Stuart Allan and Einar Thorsen (New York: Peter Lang, 2014), 158.

[37] These updates are presented in chronological order with timestamps. For example, “EDIT 3:42 EST: Police are going house to house doing sweeps” (JpDeathBlade).

[38] JpDeathBlade, “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation,” Reddit: r/news. Reddit, 19 April 2013.

[39] DisterDan, “CNN is like 40 minutes behind,” 19 April 2013, 7:32 PM. Online comment on JpDeathBlade, “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation,” Reddit: r/news.

[40] BrandyonTX, “I’m in awe of connectivity….” 19 April 2013, 7:06 PM, online comment on JpDeathBlade, “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation,” Reddit: r/news. 19 April 2013.

[41] Jesusthug, “This kind of news we are witnessing….” 19 April 2013, 6:09 PM, Online comment on JpDeathBlade. “Mods removed thread: Live updates of Boston Situation” Reddit: r/news. 19 April 2013.

[42] Jamie Bartlett, “Social media is ‘big rumour mill’,” BBC News, Apr 22, 2013.

[43] Leti Volpp, “The Boston Bombers,” Fordham Law Review 82, no. 5 (2014): 2211.

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