The Theatre of Failure: Social Media’s Role in Demonstrating Mundane Disruption

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This chapter examines failure from a Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspective, primarily focusing on how social media is used to demonstrate failure and disruption in mundane settings. From a theoretical perspective, the chapter challenges the prevalent empirical examples in STS that suggest that public demonstrations are largely biased towards addressing success. The chapter draws upon a 2016 case study of Transport for London’s social media customer service team to suggest that public demonstrations of failure are necessary for both citizens and institutions to achieve information dissemination and accountability. The case study highlights how demonstrating known transportation infrastructure failures effectively can allow citizens to route around the disruption, preventing an individual failure in completing a journey. As a result, the concept of a “theatre of failure” is introduced as a counterpoint to the more common STS concepts of the “theatre of proof” and the “theatre of use.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge International Handbook of Failure : Critical Perspectives from Sociology and Other Social Sciences
Number of pages13
Publication date2023
ISBN (Electronic)9780429355950
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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