Confinement et foule virtuelle : Rationalité médicale et panique collective / Lockdowns and Virtual Crowds: Medical Rationality and Collective Panic

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Elena BOVO


There have been many epidemics in the past, but the Covid-19 outbreak is the first worldwide epidemic, or more precisely pandemic, to have been subject to continuous media coverage. What impact did this media flow have on our behaviour, both individually and collectively?

In many countries moreover, Italy and France in particular (the two countries of reference for this analysis), lockdown orders forbade all public gatherings and suddenly, the streets, the squares, the public places in general were completely deserted. So if, as is generally accepted, a crowd is understood as being a gathering of human beings in a given space (a square, a stadium, …) with a common purpose, usually celebrations or protests, the lockdowns we experienced, causing geographic and social atomization, would, therefore, seem to be an exact antithesis. Nonetheless, a crowd, albeit a virtual crowd, united by fear in the face of an unprecedented threat relentlessly relayed by the media, did indeed exist. Moreover, this ‘crowd that was not a crowd’ was governed by certain behaviours specific to physical crowds.

In this paper, I would like to discuss these behaviours and their causes.

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Part II