Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Lorenzo Denicolai | Università di Torino | Italy 


September 16th 2022 | 12.00 – 13.30
Panel #9 | “Pandemic Discourses and Imaginaries
Room G.127 | Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milan, Largo Gemelli 1

Dystopia in your eyes! Retromediation as retroactive remediation of pandemic visual imaginaries

Various novels, films, and TV series have imagined a future in which viruses have mowed down mankind, altering the structures of contemporary Western societies. In some ways, the Covid-19 pandemic could be conceived and experienced as the reversal of a dystopian future turned into concrete everyday reality. The Covid-19 pandemic is classifiable as a ‘total social fact’ (Mauss 1924), since it reconfigures all the rites of passage of human beings and all spheres of social action. The pandemic produces visual imaginaries (Pintor Iranzo 2020), organized around objects such as masks, disinfectant gels, syringes containing vaccines, and practices such as disciplining access, immunization, sanitization.
Starting with the concept of pre-mediation (Grusin 2004), our paper reflects on a new media logic, which we call ‘retro-mediation’ (Tirino 2022). Retro-mediation is shaped by the forces of pre-mediation. By the narratives that prefigured the pandemic, and by the daily rituals of institutional (the daily bulletins of the Italian Civil Protection) and mainstream (especially all news channels) communication, premeditation contains and fuels anxiety about the management of the pandemic. It fosters emotional alertness and constant familiarity with the visual cultures of the virus.
Retromediation can be defined as a media logic of reimagining the past. On the basis of the reversal of dystopia in the present, it operates as retroactive remediation, through which users project symbols, icons and dystopian elements, drawn from pandemic visual culture, onto audiovisual images of the pre-Covid-19 years. The examples examined, taken from the TV series The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019), Pose (2018-2021), The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-), and Pushing Daisies (2007-2009), will highlight the sociocultural mechanisms brought into play by retromediation.
Thus, retromediation can be conceived as the embodiment of a mass dystopian gaze on pre-pandemic cultural products, experienced in the light of the emotional experience of viral catastrophe and its aesthetics.

Lorenzo Denicolai is a Researcher at the University of Turin, where he teaches Media Anthropology and Applied Informatics in Multimedia Communication. He deals with audiovisual media, media literacy, human-technology relations and robotics. He is the author of scientific articles in national and international journals and of the monographs Scritture mediali. Riflessioni, rappresentazioni ed esperienze mediaeducative (2017) and Mediantropi. Introduzione alla quotidianità dell’uomo tecnologico (2018). He is scientific coordinator of an audiovisual communication project with people with aphasia. He is part of the research centre Cinedumedia and the Luciano Gallino – Laboratory for Behavioural Simulation and Educational Robotics.