"The Well and the Web" examines a number of media watershed events in which the sense of community in crisis, threatened by new technologies of communication, is expressed in sensationalistic dramas of young lives in mortal danger. From the advent of live TV news to the rise of web-based interactivity, the figure insistently invoked in such scenes of crisis is that of a girl fallen into a well. This theme is echoed in the recent films Ringu and The Ring, whose horror premise makes explicit the necropolitics (Mbembe) underpinning the conventional discourse of community and televisual spectatorship. Drawing on The Phantom Public Sphere (Robbins) and new media theory (Doane, Latham, Poster), I argue that the discourse of community and morality betrays a haunted logic that must engage with contemporary theories of virtuality and spectrality (Derrida). The horror genre's tropes of the viral and the ghost provide the means to articulate a postmodern ethics of spectatorship that, attuned to trauma and the duplicity of discourse, can challenge necropolitics and extend hospitality to the phantoms that haunt the mediatic public sphere.

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