The (net)work of mourning: emotional contagion, viral performativity, and the death of David Bowie

Peta Mitchell, Axel Bruns, Felix Victor Münch


In this paper, we examine the networked spread of mass mourning on Twitter in the wake of David Bowie’s death in January 2016. We focus on a corpus of 6.3 million tweets containing the keyword ‘Bowie’, collected using the Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolkit (TCAT) over 15 days following the confirmation of Bowie’s death (from 7.12 am GMT on 11 January to 5.48 am GMT on 26 January). By examining how particular mourning practices and mourning artifacts (e.g., images, links) spread across and through the network after Bowie’s death, we will map in a more refined way the dynamics of emotional contagion around this particular instance of mass-mourning, and suggest ways that this method of analysis adds to existing understandings of mediated celebrity death and public grief.


emotional contagion, social media, celebrity death, public mourning

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