How social networks form mass representations: the case of director Cronenberg

Social media is media and more than media. And it is also a very convenient tool for those who study social perceptions and culture. Thanks to them, we can determine in detail what image has a particular phenomenon in a modern culture, a person, an event, how popular they are, what they associate with. And not just in the “modern”, but in the “momentary”: it is possible to make the most accurate time slices.

Anyone who publishes information in social networks can be called a “publisher” , “broadcaster” and has a certain audience of “readers” of varying degrees of involvement. Huskies and reposts are also broadcasting, except perhaps “reflected”, like an echo. We inform the audience, forming with it through messages, to the best of our authority, certain ideas about facts and objects.

All this is extremely simplistic. Of course, the role of the “broadcaster” is more complicated, especially if the “reader” has already formed an idea and has its own opinion.

The purpose of the publication is to show how and with the help of what the social network forms and reveals the views of the mass audience.


As a test sample, I chose one of the famous directors - David Cronenberg , who entered the history of cinema as a master of art-house cinema, “body horror” and a researcher of dark corners of human psychology, author of the cult films “Scanners”, “Videodrome”, “Existential” , "Fly", "Lunch naked", etc.

But one thing is cult cinema for connoisseurs, another is the assimilation of creativity by ordinary mass spectators who do not have the opportunity to deal with the composition, genre and meanings of the unformatted film product. For an ordinary viewer, the absorption of the director's creativity occurs, but either through the lightest and least revolutionary products (mainstream), or through simplification of complex products (their clichés and adduction to a specific niche, genre, theme), or through binding to the HYIP themes. This can be called popularization .

How does the promotion of complex creative products in practice? This is where social networks help us. Of the three popular networks in Russia, the most useful in this regard is VKontakte . Unlike Odnoklassniki and Facebook, it provides maximum opportunities for finding references in chronological context and, importantly, for monitoring the coverage of publications.

I decided to find out in what contexts Cronenberg and his films were mentioned in “VKontakte” in a single month - September 2017 - on which the publishers of the social network emphasized the director, his films, etc.

To do this, I collected all the publications mentioning Kronenberg in “VK” for September and tried to determine the context, the reason, the topic of reference, taking into account the coverage of publications. Unfortunately, I was not able to find ready-made automation tools for such searches, so part of the work (the parsing itself) had to be performed manually. Creating a tool for mapping broadcasters, formats and contexts - in the short term.

In other words, the purpose of the study is to determine

The result can be represented by several theses.

Public monopoly

It is expected that the majority of broadcasters (those who made publications about Kronenberg) are publics that made 400 publications from 480 September publications (we do not count reposts). And of the remaining 82 publications, only 21 are users' independent statements — reviews (7 out of 10 reviews were made by the same user), references, comparisons, etc. The rest are “bare” links to the media, publishing videos, etc.

In this sense, the work of Kronenberg is definitely not actively discussed in VKontakte.

Several images of Cronenberg

In general, in the view of users of the social network there are several popular "Kronenberg" (mass representations). The most popular is Kronenberg-psychologist , author of the Dangerous Method film, a biographical drama about the relationship between Freud, Jung and Sabina Spielrein. Further, the “Hollywood” Kronenberg is the author of the thriller about the fight against the Russian mafia in London “The defect for export” and, to a lesser extent, the thriller “Justified Cruelty”. Finally, this is Kronenberg, the author of the films “breaking the psyche,” the creator of Scanners, Flies, and Cramps.

All the rest of the “Kronenberg” in the unnoticed minority

Frame from the film “Defect for export”

Popular Movies

The corresponding distribution is also observed in the popularity of films (the frequency of publications and the total coverage of references to films are taken into account):


The top hit films that are not "landmarks", on the contrary, it is rather the least "Kronenberg" pictures. Cult for connoisseurs of creativity Kronenberg "Existence", "Videodrome", "Lunch naked" mentioned significantly less frequently. So the ideas about the "business card" among the experts of Kronenberg and in the mass presentation are significantly different.

“Lists” as a way to popularize

A noticeable channel of popularization is “lists”. Some of the lists are compiled by identifiable authors: “my favorite directors / films”, “top N” films, etc. However, the vast majority of lists are virus-like, it is difficult to establish their authorship, they are “faceless”, appear in almost unchanged form in many public and personal pages, walking on the social network and not losing their novelty to the audience. As a format, the list encourages the reader to preserve and distribute content, creating the illusion of concentrated, valuable information. Cronenberg appeared on several such lists. The top in terms of user reach is the list of “25 most dangerous for the psyche films” ( example ), which is also part of the list “A huge list of films for all occasions” ( example ). In this list, Kronenberg is presented as the author of one of the films “breaking the psyche” - “Cramps”. In film studies, the film is not considered “the most shifted”, and Cronenberg, by modern standards, is generally a rather calm director, but the list forms just such an idea, supporting the myth of Cronenberg, the author of “dangerous for the psyche of pictures”. In September, the list was published a total of 39 times (not counting user reposts), and its total coverage was more than 124 thousand.

The second in scope is the list “The Largest List of Psychology Films” ( example ). It includes the movie “Dangerous Method”. From the point of view of film critic, this is one of the least characteristic of Kronenberg films. However, due to the interest of the ordinary viewer to popular psychology, pop-Freudianism and self-knowledge, the list forms the concept of Cronenberg as the author of psychological films and biopics. This list was published a total of 37 times in September (not counting user reposts), and its total coverage was more than 67 thousand.
In addition, the films of Kronenberg are included in the lists of “100 best tapes of the 21st century” (“Justified cruelty”, coverage of more than 16 thousand, example ) and several more unpopular lists, for example, “94 films about psychologists, psychotherapists, insane and psychiatric hospitals” (“ Car accident ", coverage of more than 500).

Thus, this channel of popularization spreads the idea of ​​Cronenberg as an author, first of all, films about psychological deviations or films about the history of psychology. However, due to the specificity of the format, it has a blurry and superficial “pop effect”.

Popular Contexts

The context refers to the informational guide, “sauce”, under which Cronenberg and his films are mentioned. The name of the director is included in the associative chain, which forms a specific context. In addition to the natural context, which is formed by the news around the director himself, and which are interesting primarily to his connoisseurs and fans, external contexts are also very important - references in connection with extraneous events. Context is a more “live” and “penetrating” channel than lists, because the reader includes the new (Kronenberg) in a matrix of interests that is understandable and interesting to him. At the same time, the publisher, tying Cronenberg to the desired context, attracts additional attention of the audience.

Which contexts were the most popular for Kronenberg in September?
Most of the posts (48, not counting reposts, total coverage of 81000+) were made at the very end of the month, in connection with the announcement of the release of the series based on the “Scanners” tape. This splash was influenced, apparently, by two factors:

  1. publication of news on the Kinopoisk portal and in the Kinopoisk public page on VKontakte, where she gained 60,000 views,
  2. cultural trend - increased attention to the serial format and to remakes of films of the 1980s. Thus, the “actualization” of Kronenberg occurred.

But besides this, Kronenberg was actively included in other contexts. The main places in the frequency of posts occupied three contexts. Most often they recalled Kronenberg in connection with Stephen King (27 posts, total coverage 34000+), the premiere of the film “Ono” and the writer's jubilee - Kronenberg positioned himself as the director of one of the successful screenings of King “The Dead Zone”. The second context is also commercialized (tied to the current film distribution) - this is the premiere in movie theaters of the movie “Good Time” with Robert Pattinson , whom Cronenberg in the films “Cosmopolis” and “Star Card” allegedly “discovered” as a serious dramatic and even art-house actor (23 publications total coverage 7400+). Finally, 16 publications (total coverage 19,000+) mentioning Cronenberg were related to the birthday of actor Jeremy Irons .

The frequency of publications and a large number of publishers is an important factor, but not the main one. The main thing is the coverage of readers : a publisher with good coverage, even with a small number of publications, affects more massively than dozens of publishers with a tiny audience. Therefore, the single outreach in 128000+ was received by one and only publication in the public “BadComedian”, which presented Cronenberg as a master of complex makeup (the film “The Fly”).


Well, the contemporaneous and obvious contexts of Kronenberg and cinema are the contexts of cyberpunk , body horror and specific visual aesthetics turned out to be practically “at the bottom”.

The illustration below shows a general list of contexts (with coverage over 1000):



Even on such a small slice, it is noticeable that social networks are at the same time a reflection of popular ideas, a tool for their identification and analysis, and a powerful channel of their creation. By choosing the necessary or convenient contexts, formats of publications, publishers form in the readers views that are significantly different from the “standard”, professional ones. In a mass presentation, Kronenberg is neither an innovator of film language, nor a media researcher, nor an art-house director, etc. - but, first of all, an author of films about psychology, thrillers and horror films. And it is quite possible, tomorrow, with the advent of new contexts, he will have a “new face”.


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