Any #JesuisIraq planned?**Authorship is shared equally by both authors. : Claiming affective displays for forgotten places

Barbara De Cock and Andrea Pizarro Pedraza

Abstract

The stem #jesuis followed by a toponym (e.g. #jesuisParis) has proved to be very productive in the gathering of affective publics (Papacharissi 2015Papacharissi, Zizi 2015Affective Publics. Sentiment, Technology, and Politics. USA: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar) around causes of mourning, after terrorist attacks and other disasters. However, not all attacks have given rise to such massive affective use of #jesuis hashtags. Our goal is to examine how Twitter users claim similar displays of affect for these “other” places. We analyze 297 tweets in which the Twitter user utters a condolence speech act while simultaneously contesting the unbalanced affective reactions expressed concerning some places, e.g. “Any #JesuisIraq planned?”. We observe the geographical granularity of the referred place, the structural complexity of the tweet and, if present, the underlying motives for unbalanced reactions suggested by the Twitter users. By doing so, we show how Twitter is used to claim attention for places that are deemed underrepresented, thus confirming the importance of Twitter for expressing solidarity.

Keywords:
Publication history
Table of contents

1.Introduction

Online platforms have become part of our life and, as such, are used to express a variety of contents, including affective ones. These range from happiness, joy and pride to the online expression of grief (see Giaxoglou 2015Giaxoglou, Korina 2015 “Entextualising Mourning on Facebook: Stories of Grief as Acts of Sharing.” New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia 21: 1–2, 87–105. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Users may express affective stance on these platforms (as they do in other interaction types), whether they align or disalign with certain claims. One of those expressions of affect is the hashtag #jesuischarlie, which emerged following the attack on Charlie Hebdo on January 7th 2015 (Bazin 2015Bazin, Maëlle 2015 “L’énonciation d’un deuil national. Usages de “Je suis Charlie” dans les écritures urbaines.” In Le défi Charlie. Les médias à l’épreuve des attentats, ed. by Pierre Lefébure, and Claire Sécail, 153–186. Paris: Lemieux.Google Scholar; Beech 2015Beech, Richard 2015 “The First Person to Tweet #JeSuisCharlie – How It Became a Symbol of Defiance and Solidarity.” Mirror Online (9 Jan. 2015) Available at: http://​www​.mirror​.co​.uk​/news​/world​-news​/first​-person​-tweet​-jesuischarlie​-4941329 (accessed: 04/07/2017).) and immediately became widely used (de Lucena Ito 2015de Lucena Ito, Liliane 2015 “CharlieHebdo. A repercussão ampliada em memes e hashtags.” In Anais do XIV congresso Ibero-Americano de comunicação IBERCOM 2015: Comunicação, cultura e mídias sociais, ed. by Ricardo Romancini, and Maria Immacolata Vassallo de Lopes, 3321–3331. São Paulo: ECA-USP.Google Scholar; Sumiala et al. 2016Sumiala, Johanna, Minttu Tikka, Jukka Huhtamäki, and Katja Valaskivi 2016 “#JeSuisCharlie: Towards a Multi-method Study of Hybrid Media Events.” Media and Communication 4(4): 97–108. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Smyrnaios and Ratinaud 2017Smyrnaios, Nikos, and Pierre Ratinaud 2017 “The Charlie Hebdo Attacks on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of a Political Controversy in English and French.” Social Media + Society, January-March: 1–13.Google Scholar; Giglietto and Lee 2017Giglietto, Fabio, and Yenn Lee 2017 “A Hashtag Worth a Thousand Words: Discursive Strategies around #JeNeSuisPasCharlie after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo Shooting.” Social Media + Society January-March: 1–15.Google Scholar; Johansson et al. 2018Johansson, Marjut, Aki-Juhani Kyröläinen, Filip Ginter, Lotta Lehti, Attila Krizsán, and Veronika Laippala 2018 “Opening Up #jesuisCharlie Anatomy of a Twitter Discussion with Mixed Methods.” Journal of Pragmatics 129: 90–101. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Giaxoglou 2018Giaxoglou, Korina 2018 “#JeSuisCharlie? Hashtags as Narrative Resources in Contexts of Ecstatic Sharing.” Discourse, Context & Media 22: 13–20. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

Hashtags are one of the affordances (Hutchby 2001Hutchby, Ian 2001Conversation and Technology. From the Telephone to the Internet. Cambridge: Wiley.Google Scholar, 2014 2014 “Communicative Affordances and Participation Frameworks in Mediated Interaction.” Journal of Pragmatics 72: 86–89. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) of Twitter, though certainly not limited to this platform. The fact that particularly hashtags are used as a locus for expressing affect and are claimed as an expression of affect, shows that hashtags fulfil functions well beyond the labelling or searchability function (Mancera and Pano 2013Mancera, Ana, and Ana Pano 2013El discurso político en Twitter: Análisis de mensajes que “trinan”. Barcelona: Anthropos.Google Scholar; Zappavigna 2012Zappavigna, Michele 2012Discourse of Twitter and Social Media: How We Use Language to Create Affiliation on the Web. London: Continuum.Google Scholar, 2015 2015 “Searchable Talk: The Linguistic Functions of Hashtags.” Social Semiotics 25(3): 274–291. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Indeed, they also allow for creating networked publics (boyd 2010boyd, danah 2010 “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, ed. by Zizi Papacharissi, 39–58. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar) and fulfil a variety of other functions related to self-expression and interpersonal relationships (Wikström 2014Wikström, Peter 2014 “#srynotfunny: Communicative Functions of Hashtags on Twitter.” SKY Journal of Linguistics 27: 127–152.Google Scholar; Zappavigna 2014 2014 “Ambient Affiliation in Microblogging. Bonding Around the Quotidian.” Media International Australia 151: 97–103. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 2015 2015 “Searchable Talk: The Linguistic Functions of Hashtags.” Social Semiotics 25(3): 274–291. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Particularly when launching a new hashtag, Twitter users by definition do not link their tweet to an existing hashtag (and assorted tweets and metastory). Rather, they express a personal stance, and attempt to create new ad hoc publics (Bruns and Burgess 2015Bruns, Axel, and Jean Burgess 2015 “Twitter Hashtags from Ad Hoc to Calculated Publics.” In Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks, ed. by Nathan Rambukkana, 13–28. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar) and a new metastory concerning a specific event (cf. Giaxoglou 2018Giaxoglou, Korina 2018 “#JeSuisCharlie? Hashtags as Narrative Resources in Contexts of Ecstatic Sharing.” Discourse, Context & Media 22: 13–20. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

The hashtag #jesuisCharlie then serves interpersonal functions, such as expressing condolences or solidarity, and contributes to creating a metastory concerning these attacks (Giaxoglou 2018Giaxoglou, Korina 2018 “#JeSuisCharlie? Hashtags as Narrative Resources in Contexts of Ecstatic Sharing.” Discourse, Context & Media 22: 13–20. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Following the initial #jesuischarlie, the pattern #jesuis proved very productive as a means to express grief or to express support in different languages for a variety of causes, well beyond terrorist attacks (De Cock and Pizarro Pedraza 2018De Cock, Barbara, and Andrea Pizarro Pedraza 2018 “From Expressing Solidarity to Mocking on Twitter: Pragmatic Functions of Hashtags Starting with #jesuis across LanguagesLanguage in Society 47: 197–217. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). In all, #jesuis seems to have become a more generalized strategy to gather affective publics (Papacharissi 2015Papacharissi, Zizi 2015Affective Publics. Sentiment, Technology, and Politics. USA: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar). Very soon, also humoristic uses or tweets questioning the uses of #jesuisCharlie (Pizarro Pedraza and De Cock 2018Pizarro Pedraza, Andrea, and Barbara De Cock 2018 “Non-conforming Uses of #jesuisCharlie and Derived Hashtags on Twitter”. In Language and the new (instant) media ( Cahiers du Cental 9), ed. by Louise-Amélie Cougnon, Barbara De Cock, and Cédrick Fairon, 99–106. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain.Google Scholar) and of other hashtags with #jesuis (De Cock and Pizarro Pedraza 2018De Cock, Barbara, and Andrea Pizarro Pedraza 2018 “From Expressing Solidarity to Mocking on Twitter: Pragmatic Functions of Hashtags Starting with #jesuis across LanguagesLanguage in Society 47: 197–217. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) emerged. These include critiques concerning the cultural orientation of #jesuischarlie, which were formulated already early on (An et al. 2016An, Jisun, Haewoon Kwak, Yelena Mejova, Sonia Alonso Saenz De Oger, and Braulio Gomez Fortes 2016 “Are You Charlie or Ahmed? Cultural Pluralism in Charlie Hebdo Response on Twitter.” In Proceedings of the 10th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM). Cologne. http://​www​.aaai​.org​/ocs​/index​.php​/ICWSM​/ICWSM16​/paper​/download​/12997​/12719; Badouard 2015Badouard, Romain 2015 ““Je ne suis pas Charlie”. Pluralité des prises de parole sur le web et les réseaux sociaux.” In Le défi Charlie. Les médias à l’épreuve des attentats, ed. by Pierre Lefébure, and Claire Sécail, 187–220. Paris: Lemieux.Google Scholar; Giglietto and Lee 2017Giglietto, Fabio, and Yenn Lee 2017 “A Hashtag Worth a Thousand Words: Discursive Strategies around #JeNeSuisPasCharlie after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo Shooting.” Social Media + Society January-March: 1–15.Google Scholar).

Within the wide range of hashtags starting with #jesuis, some of the most frequent formations are those that combine #jesuis with a toponym (place name) or a demonym (denoting a person who is native or inhabitant of a certain place), such as #jesuisparis or #jesuisbelge, in order to refer metonymically to the place where an attack or other disaster has happened. These hashtags created networked publics (boyd 2010boyd, danah 2010 “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, ed. by Zizi Papacharissi, 39–58. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar) linked to a place and the event associated with it, and which heavily rely on the expression of emotion. They are thus a locus for ‘networked affect’ (Hillis et al. 2015Hillis, Ken, Paasonen, Susanna, and Michael Petit (eds.) 2015Networked Affect. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) or networked emotion (Benski and Fischer 2014Benski, Tova, and Eran Fischer (eds) 2014Internet and Emotions. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar; Giaxoglou, Döveling and Pitsillides 2017Giaxoglou, Korina, Katrin Döveling, and Stacey Pitsillides 2017 “Networked Emotions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sharing Loss Online.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 61(1): 1–10. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), where Twitter users who do not necessarily know each other, tie in to a shared display of affect.

In this study, we want to focus on a specific phenomenon, namely on how Twitter users claim affective displays similar to #jesuischarlie for places that are not (yet) at the heart of a networked public and that, in the tweeters’ opinion, are lacking public attention. Indeed, some attacks seem to elicit more #jesuis-hashtags than others, suggesting that the display of affect differs according to the place where the attack happens. This has led some Twitter users to not only launch a #jesuis-hashtag for certain attacks but also to more explicitly comment on the lack of attention for this attack (1). This also implies a claim for displays of affect by other users. Indeed, Twitter users may elaborate on the fact that not all places receive similar attention and may offer underlying motives for the lack of expression of affect in those cases. In (1), the writer makes explicit that he/she considers the lack of attention for attacks in Yemen to be linked to its taking place outside Europe, suggesting a eurocentric orientation in the creation of networked affect.

(1)

RT @X: Atentado con 71 muertos y más de 90 heridos en Yemen, como no es Europa no pasa nada.… #JeSuisYemen https://​t​.co​/6on8SucNKg (Spanish)

‘RT @X: Attack with 71 deaths and more than 90 wounded in Yemen, since it’s not Europe nothing is happening… #JeSuisYemen https://​t​.co​/6on8SucNKg11.We have chosen not to translate #jesuis in the examples we comment upon in view of the specific meaning that French #jesuis has developed across languages (see also De Cock and Pizarro Pedraza 2018De Cock, Barbara, and Andrea Pizarro Pedraza 2018 “From Expressing Solidarity to Mocking on Twitter: Pragmatic Functions of Hashtags Starting with #jesuis across LanguagesLanguage in Society 47: 197–217. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

This discussion on Twitter concerning the attention that certain places receive (or not) ties in with an emerging interest for the fact that, while social media allow for transcending spatial restrictions, Twitter users often do have a special link with specific spaces and comment (mainly) upon the space(s) they live in (see also Georgakopoulou 2015Georgakopoulo, Alexandra 2015 “Introduction: Communicating Time and Place on Digital Media – Multi-layered Temporalities & (Re)localizations”. Discourse, Context and Media 9: 1–4. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Heyd and Honkanen 2015Heyd, Theresa, and Mirka Honkanen, Mirka 2015 “From Naija to Chitown. The New African Diaspora and Digital Representations of Place.” Discourse, Context and Media 9: 14–23. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), or they care about in some way (as in Example (1)).

Through three research questions (Section 2), we will attempt to gain a better insight into how this expression of affect and claim of affect are realized. We will discuss the data used in this study (Section 3) and the method (Section 4) before proceeding to the analyses (Section 5). Finally, we will offer concluding remarks, showing the contribution of our analysis for the study of networked emotion and of stancetaking online (Section 6).

2.Research questions

We aim to account for the ways in which Twitter users claim affective displays for attacks on places around the world and, especially, on how they claim affective displays that are similar to those received for Western targets, for places that seem to receive less attention on Twitter. First, we will look into the geographical granularity in the #jesuis-hashtag, namely the specificity of the toponym or the demonym used in the hashtag. We focus on whether some places are treated as more or less easily identifiable than others, with the hypothesis that geographical areas that are better known can be referred to in a higher degree of specificity, for instance by means of a city name versus a country reference.

Second, we will analyse the complexity of the tweet as a whole, looking into which other elements (text, emoji, images, links,…) are used in the tweet apart from the #jesuis-hashtag. We will also look into which kind of additional information these elements may offer concerning the claim for affect and how they contribute to it, for instance by showing images of an attack.

Finally, we will analyze which (explicit) underlying motives are suggested by Twitter users for this unequal attention to some places. In doing so, we wish to gain further insight into how Twitter users perceive and interpret different attention for different places where attacks or disasters take place.

3.Data

Our study is based on a database of tweets from 2015 and 2016 containing a #jesuis-hashtag. These were collected as described in Naets (2018)Naets, Hubert 2018 “Techniques de collecte et d’archivage des tweets: Partage de pratiques et d’outils.” In Pérenniser l’éphémère. Archivage et médias sociaux. coll. Publications des archives de l’UCL, ed. by Aurore François, Anne Roekens, Véronique Fillieux and Caroline Derauw, 215–237. Louvain-la-Neuve: Academia Eds.Google Scholar, namely via a general extraction through the Twitter API, which led to obtaining 8146 tweets starting with #jesuis, containing more than 1900 different #jesuis-hashtags. This method does not pretend to offer an exhaustive database of #jesuis-hashtags but it does allow for harvesting a wide diversity of tweets starting with #jesuis, in terms of users, languages and elements included in the hashtag after #jesuis, as opposed to methods relying on pre-established lists of #jesuis-hashtags (which may lead to an exhaustive database of only those specific hashtags). In view of our interest in the diversity of #jesuis-hashtags, this method was the most adequate one, since it gave access to the variety of uses, including many hapaxes, which occur only once. This is particularly important for this study, since we want to focus on jesuis-hashtags followed by toponyms or demonyms that are not the dominating ones. Therefore, a method that granted access to variation was highly desirable.

The database is representative of the period in which it was collected, in the sense that it is composed of references to places where certain events happened or were relevant at the time of data collection. While we continue to observe similar uses in subsequent periods, the concrete places being referred to may differ, of course, in view of recent events. Thus, the quantitative results presented in this study should be considered to hold for the period under scrutiny and could be replicated for other periods, in order to observe what places are then mentioned.

As argued elsewhere (De Cock and Pizarro Pedraza 2018De Cock, Barbara, and Andrea Pizarro Pedraza 2018 “From Expressing Solidarity to Mocking on Twitter: Pragmatic Functions of Hashtags Starting with #jesuis across LanguagesLanguage in Society 47: 197–217. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), #jesuis-hashtags occur across languages, which is a proof of the creativity and globalization of its use. Our study then deals with tweets occurring in this variety of languages and no language selection has been applied a priori or a posteriori.

We include in our data tweets with different degrees of integration of the toponym (or demonym) in the hashtag. The toponym can appear in the second slot of the #jesuis-hashtag (2). Some tweets single out the toponym immediately following the #jesuis-hashtag, as Pakistan in (3). Finally, in some tweets with #jesuis the toponym appears as an entirely separate hashtag, e.g. #Idomeni in (4). Occasionally, combinations of these strategies appear. We manually coded the tweets for toponyms and demonyms, since automatic techniques to do so failed. This manual selection resulted in a 297 tweet dataset with 129 different hashtags, referring to 88 different places. Indeed, various places are being referred to by means of different language and orthographic variants of the same place. Brussels is for instance being referred to be means of #jesuisbruxelles, #jesuisbruxelle, #jesuisbruxell, #jesuisbrux, #jesuisbruxe, #jesuisbruselles or #jesuisBx.

(2)

RT @X: Oye! Una cosita…nada, una chorrada. Veo pocas banderas de Pakistán o pocos #JeSuisPakistan …..Nada, una reflexión tonta.

‘RT @X: Listen! Just a small thing… nothing, a little something. I see few flags of Pakistan or few #JeSuisPakistan… Nothing, a stupid reflection.’

(3)

#JeSuis Pakistan, no? is anyone changing their Facebook pic to Pakistani flag? hmm, why not?

(4)

RT @X: #JeSuis de gasear a quienes huyen del terrorismo. #Idomeni (Spanish)

‘RT @X: #JeSuis all for gasifying those who flee terrorism. #Idomeni’

While the tweets included in our database were all posted publicly, most tweeters are not public persons. Therefore, taking into account the ethics guidelines of the Assocation of Internet Researchers (AoIR 2012AoIR: Association of Internet Researchers 2012Ethical Decision-making and Internet Research 2.0: Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee. https://​aoir​.org​/reports​/ethics2​.pdf (accessed: 07/09/2018).) and the sometimes sensitive nature of the content of the tweets, we have decided to anonymize references to Twitter handles by replacing them with X, in order to respect the users’ privacy, except when the account pertained to a public person or an official institution.

4.Method

In view of our research questions, we coded the tweets for geographic granularity, structural complexity and claim for affect, as laid out in the following paragraphs.

We coded all the tweets with a toponym or demonym for the granularity of the place referred to. We distinguish the following categories: world (e.g. #jesuisAlltheworld), continent (e.g. #jesuisEurope), country (e.g. #jesuisRDC [République Démocratique du Congo]), region (e.g. #jesuisBretagne), city/town (e.g. #jesuisBxl [Bruxelles]), district (e.g. #jesuisProvi), establishment/institution (e.g. #jesuislepontdeMiomu (Miomu’s bridge)). In addition to coding for geographical granularity, we also coded for the continent where the toponym or demonym is situated.

In some cases, it was impossible to determine the specificity of the toponym or demonym, which was coded as undetermined. This holds among others for tweets where the Twitter user plays with the idea of a blank after the jesuis-hashtag where any Western place can be added, as in (5). The specification occidental ‘Western’ points again at a geographical orientation in a specific part of the world and contains a judgment concerning the use of these hashtags. The suggested interchangeability of the toponym that follows #jesuis implies moreover a comment concerning the use of such #jesuis-hashtags and those who use it: it is an easy way of protesting online that a particular kind of people use (Pizarro Pedraza and De Cock 2018Pizarro Pedraza, Andrea, and Barbara De Cock 2018 “Non-conforming Uses of #jesuisCharlie and Derived Hashtags on Twitter”. In Language and the new (instant) media ( Cahiers du Cental 9), ed. by Louise-Amélie Cougnon, Barbara De Cock, and Cédrick Fairon, 99–106. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain.Google Scholar). In that sense, the #jesuis-hashtag has become emblematic for that certain type of Twitter user (De Cock and Pizarro Pedraza 2018De Cock, Barbara, and Andrea Pizarro Pedraza 2018 “From Expressing Solidarity to Mocking on Twitter: Pragmatic Functions of Hashtags Starting with #jesuis across LanguagesLanguage in Society 47: 197–217. CrossrefGoogle Scholar).

(5)

Los que hablan d #IIIGuerraMundial quieren que ocurra para poder twitear acerca d ella y de #JeSuis(“inserte ubicación occi… (Spanish)

‘Those who speak about #3WorldWar want it to happen so that they can tweet about it and about #jesuis(“insert west[ern] location”)’

We then coded for the structural complexity of the tweet, indicating whether the tweet contained text, links, emoji or a combination of those, in addition to the jesuis-hashtag.

Finally, we zoomed in on the tweets that include an explicit claim for attention and/or underline the lack of affective displays for a particular place. We coded whether the tweet contained not only a toponym or demonym, but also a claim for (digital media) attention for a particular place that seems to be ignored, as in (6). In this example, through the rhetorical questions Who is Haiti? Nobody? the Twitter user points to the lack of concern shown on Twitter regarding the impact of a hurricane in Haiti. The user then closes the tweet with the hashtag #JeSuisHaiti and, by doing so, tries to increase the attention for this cause (note the opposition nobody (is Haiti) versus je suis Haiti).

(6)

L’image du jour… Who is Haiti ? Nobody ? #JeSuisHaiti (image of a lonely child suffering) (French)

‘The image of the day… Who is Haiti ? Nobody? #JeSuisHaiti’

This group of tweets are central to this paper, since we are interested in observing how Twitter users claim affective displays. Some tweets included a more or less explicit reason for the lack of attention given to a particular place. We have carried out a qualitative analysis of the reasons given for the lack of attention for particular places in the world in order to establish whether there is a systematicity in the reasons mentioned by Twitter users.

5.Analysis

5.1Geographical granularity

Our first research question concerns the geographical granularity in the #jesuis-hashtag. We focus on how specific the toponym or demonym used is, with a view to analysing whether some places are presented as more or less easy to identify. When looking at the data, the very vast majority of the #jesuis-hashtags with a toponym or a demonym refer to a country, followed by a city (see Table 1).

Table 1.Distribution of the toponyms and demonyms according to their geographical granularity
Levels Total
Country 198
City/town  51
Region  24
Establishment/institution  12
Continent   5
World   4
District   2
Undetermined   1
Total 297

However, when we look into the granularity in view of the continent where the place the toponym or demonym refers to is situated, considerable differences appear (see Table 2 and Figure 1).22.Note that the zone Asia/Europe refers to a mention to Turkey (as a country). The figure only includes the zones for which there is variation in granularity in the hashtags, in order to visualize the proportional differences. Therefore, the zones World and Asia/Europe are not represented. Indeed, almost half (47.2%) of the hashtags concerning Europe are rather granular and include mention of a city/town (7), a region (8) or concrete establishments and buildings (9) such as the supermarket where people were kept hostage. This holds for over 28% of the toponyms situated in America.

Table 2.Distribution of the toponyms and demonyms according to geographical granularity per world zone
Europe Africa America Asia World Asia/Europe Total
Country  70 85 25 17 0 1 198
City/town  44  2  2  3 0 0  51
Region  18  1  4  1 0 0  24
Establishment/institution   6  3  3  0 0 0  12
Continent   4  1  0  0 0 0   5
World   0  0  0  0 4 0   4
District   1  0  1  0 0 0   2
Undetermined   1  0  0  0 0 0   1
Total 144 92 35 21 4 1 297
Figure 1.Distribution of toponyms and demonyms according to geographical granularity per world zone (Asia, Europe, Africa and America) (in percentages)
Figure 1.
(7)

RT @X: Francesi una vignetta così vi avrebbe fatto ridere? #CharlieHedbo #terremoto #jesuisAmatrice @X @X ht… (Italian)

‘RT @X: French would a label like this have made you laugh? #CharlieHebdo #earthquake #jesuisAmatrice @X @X ht…’

(8)

RT @X: Mon ptit cœur d’alsacienne pleure #SNCF #JeSuisAlsace https://​t​.co​/o1fEJmGJyH (French)

‘RT @X: My little heart as an Alsacian cries #SNCF #JeSuisAlsace https://​t​.co​/o1fEJmGJyH

(9)

RT @X: 11 janvier 2015 Marche républicaine, 4 millions de personnes manifestent pour dire #JeSuisCharlie #JeSuisHyperCacher #JeSu… (French)

‘RT @X : 11 January 2015 Republican march, 4 million people protest to say #JeSuisCharlie #JeSuisHyperCacher #JeSu…’

Also around 20% of the toponyms situated in Asia are more granular than a mention of a country, but these are limited to cities (10) and regions (11). Highly specific references such as districts or establishments do not occur.

(10)

Vedo tante bandiere e tanti #jesuis per Aleppo. (Italian)

‘I see so many flags and so many #jesuis for Aleppo.’

(11)

#JeSuisKashmir Further terrorism attacks targeted at Indian camps. We stand up to terrorism. #JeSuisJammu #IndiaStrikesBack @X (English)

For the hashtags referring to Africa, almost 95% of the toponyms refer to a country, such as Burundi (12), Yemen, Gabon or Morocco. Only 5% of the toponyms are more specific than the name of a country, for instance, in a reference to the terrorist attacks in the Bardo Museum in Tunis (13).

(12)

RT @X: Une gifle à @UNHumanRights Le rapport tissé de faux témoignages a pour effet d’unir les burundais. #JeSuisBurundi. https:… (French)

‘RT @X : A slap to @UNHumanRights The report woven of false testimonies has the effect of uniting the Burundians.’

(13)

RT @X: #JeSuisTunisien #JeSuisBardo (French)

La Tunisie ne meurt jamais 👌✌ http://​t​.co​/TUIIodTml0

‘RT @X : #JeSuisTunisien #JeSuisBardo Tunisia never dies 👌✌ http://​t​.co​/TUIIodTml0

In some cases, like in (12), the reference to a country is pertinent since the event mentioned in the tweet affects the whole country (in this case, a UN report about human rights violations in Burundi). However, in other cases, when an event has happened in a particular city, some tweets use the name of the city while others use the name of the country, preferring therefore a lower level of granularity. This is the case of (14), where the Twitter user mentions vaguely the place where the attacks took place (near a school) and constructs the jesuis-hashtag with reference to the country (#JeSuisYemen) rather than to the region or city. The same goes for (15), where the mention to the specific place of the attack is present in the tweet (Sinai), whereas the hashtag refers more generally to the country (#jesuisEgypt).

(14)

RT @X: 🔴 !ÚLTIMA HORA! 🔴

Explosión en Yemen cerca de un colegio esta misma mañana.

#JeSuisYemen https://​t​.co​/RwgUGISFqh (Spanish)

‘RT @X : 🔴 !Last moments! 🔴

Explosion in Yemen close to a college this very morning.

#JeSuisYemen https://​t​.co​/RwgUGISFqh

(15)

RT @X: Meanwhile in Sinai. https://​t​.co​/IiXupGah9K #JeSuisEgypt (English)

The higher granularity of the reference to Europe may be due to the fact that the period under scrutiny featured some attacks in Europe. However, since there were also attacks in other parts of the world, the higher geographical granularity for tweets considering Europe also seems to be linked to a better knowledge of (the events related to) places in Europe, leading the Twitter user to express empathy and condolences for very specific places (Amatrice, HyperCacher), rather than for a country in general (Italy or France, respectively), as opposed to what happens for African places. In that respect, we interpret that the higher mention of specific European places (as opposed to less specificity when mentioning places in other parts of the world) shows a dominance of a Western point of view in jesuis-hashtags.”

5.2Structural complexity of the tweets

Our second research question concerns the structural complexity of the tweets, that is, which (multimodal) resources are used in the tweet to add extra information (if any), in addition to the hashtag. This is relevant in that those additional elements (emoji, for instance) often contribute to building the affective stance by bringing informative or emotional content to the tweet. In fact, the simplest tweet – structurally speaking – would consist only of the jesuis-hashtag, whereas other tweets may combine different sorts of multimodal content into what we would consider a structurally complex tweet. In our data, besides the hashtag, tweets may include text, links (to text, videos or images) and emoji.

The most common structure includes, besides the hashtag, a text and a link. The link leads to extra text or audiovisual material. Examples concern a link to a video where a man tries to sell #jesuisbrussels vs. #jesuisankara t-shirts, the former having much more success than the latter. He thus refers not only to the offline existence of hashtags (cf. also Heyd and Puschmann 2017Heyd, Theresa, and Cornelius Puschmann 2017 “Hashtagging and Functional Shift: Adaptation and Appropriation of the #.” Journal of Pragmatics 116: 51–63. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) but also shows through this video that people seem to be willing to sympathize more openly with Brussels than with Ankara. Links to visual material include among others a link to a tragic world map (Figure 2), coloured according to the attitude towards tragedies. Here again, the author suggests through the visual element that attitudes concerning tragedies may differ depending on where the tragedy takes places. While this map does not seem to be based on any scientific data or method and aims at criticizing varying degrees of empathy through a humoristic device, it is noteworthy that the distinctions proposed in it are quite in line with the geographical granularity differences we have shown in the previous paragraph. Indeed, the places that tend to be represented in the most granular way are those that elicited the strongest reactions, whereas continents that are represented in a less granular way, evoke less strong reactions or even indifference. The qualification on the map “Wait, does this country exist?” even explicitly refers to the lack of geographical knowledge concerning certain places as related to a lack of empathy.

Figure 2.Tweet with Tragedy world map
Figure 2.