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Reading Disorders: Online Suicide and the Death of Hope

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date10/2010
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Number of pages18
Original languageEnglish


This article examines the representation of cybersuicide in the popular media. Taking as its starting point two cases, those of Abraham Biggs and the so‐called “Bridgend suicide cult”, it analyses the moral panics that circulate around online suicide to suggest that the representation of youth suicide involves a mobilisation of “the death of hope” in both news reports and academic theorising, which is typical of media effects models more generally. The article uses Abigail Bray's notion of “reading disorders” to explore the ways in which such an account of online relationships constructs some forms of engagement with digital media as pathological, excessive and dangerous. This popular account of online interaction thus entails a call to a collective work of despair, in which “generation 2.0” are represented as beyond help and hence figured as already lost to hope, as already dead. The online subject is portrayed as monstrous, as tainted with death, and hence no longer belongs to the world of the living. Through a close reading of newspaper coverage of online youth suicide, the article argues that this narrative of disordered reading forecloses more hopeful ways of thinking through our relationship with media texts and hence ignores the potential of digital media to facilitate connection, functioning as a technology of hope.

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