Accomplishing Reality Media: The Affective Lure of Online Crime Discussions

Erik Hannerz, Veronika Burcar Alm, David Wästerfors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing from interviews with posters and an analysis of a dozen discussion threads on the Swedish online discussion forum Flashback, this article sets out to investigate the dramatization of crime news from the point of view of the participants themselves. Analyzing both the online discussions and the articulated motivations and activities of the posters, this article focuses on how participants in these crime discussion threads come together around an epistemic quest for the truth, but also how discussions are ritualized so as to give rise to a collective effervescence and unity when the epistemic drama is perceived to have been resolved, and the truth is revealed to the wider public. Accordingly, this article seeks to remedy a gap in the previous research on online crime discussions by focusing less on the investigative aspects of such work – for example, how participants collaborate to solve crimes – and more on the symbolic and affective aspects of the dramatization of these discussions of crime. What is at the forefront is thus how participants make sense of their engagement and experience of these online discussions, rather than the actual criminal case. To refer to this as an epistemic drama is to highlight how activities, ideals and identities are ordered and sequenced through a ritualization of collective online participation, but also how it involves the establishment of (1) a particular predicament, (2) a collective objective, and (3) ultimately some sort of perceived emotional climax related to solving this predicament through the collective objective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-492
Number of pages17
JournalCultural Sociology
Issue number4
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Media Studies


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