The paper introduces the pandemic crisis in Italy ( but not only there) as a challenge for sociological analysis. Starting as a health emergency, the pandemic has impacted all domains of social systems and social life. The decision to stop most work and leisure activities to avoid the collapse of the health system resulted in a generalized lockdown. People’s compliance with lockdown measures was part of an ongoing negotiation of sense making that involved science, expertise and commonsense. The main arenas of this negotiation were traditional and social media. Particularly online, the discourse about the pandemic gave rise to an info-demic of not only news, science communication campaigns, comments and debates, but also engaged market communication and advertising, and expressive performances by artists and the public. At the start of the pandemic, science dictated the agenda while people were engaging in new social practices and rituals of mutual reassurance. As the spread of the pandemic slowed, the public arena experienced a shift from a common definition of the situation to the emergence of alternative ones. These new definitions stemmed from the differential impact of the pandemic in terms of socio-material conditions and inequalities, which were reinterpreted within the framework of emerging alliances and divergent perspectives on envisioned futures. What seems mow to be at stake is a reflexive and responsible stance towards those alternative futures.
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