Gang Violence on the Digital Street: Case Study of a South Side Chicago Gang Member’s Twitter Communication

Desmond, Patton; Lane, Jeffrey; Leonard, Patrick; Macbeth, Jaime; Smith Lee, Jocelyn
New Media & Society

Social media connects youth to peers who share shared experiences and support; however, urban gang-involved youth navigate ‘the digital street’ following a script that may incite violence. Urban gang-involved youth use SNS to brag and insult and make threats a concept known as Internet banging. Recent research suggests Internet banging has resulted in serious injury and homicide. We argue violence may be disseminated in Chicago through social media platforms like Twitter. We examine the Twitter communications of one known female gang member, Gakirah Barnes, during a two week window in which her friend was killed and then weeks later, she was also killed. We explore how street culture is translated online through the conventions of Twitter. We find that a salient script of reciprocal violence within a local network is written online in real time. Those writing this script anticipate, direct, historicize, and mourn neighborhood violence.