#enfrentaroCOVID – 1. O espanto

Research output: Other contribution


COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the binding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to ECA-2 enzymes. The virus is believed to be the result of the adaptation of SARS-CoV, which caused the first serious infectious disease of the 21st century. SARS-CoV-2 was unknown until December 2019, when an outbreak was detected in the Huanan market, in the Wuhan region, China.

At the date of this writing, the virus had caused a total of 198,842 deaths and 2,883,603 people were infected, which represented an increase of 85,517 new infections compared to the previous day. The virus is spread over 213 areas worldwide, registering a higher incidence in more developed regions.

In the scientific fighting against the pandemic, special attention is directed to the structural characteristics of the proteins that constitute the spike of the virus, which is the structure that links it to the ECA-2 enzymes. The spike has been represented in different ways. The most common is diagrammatic representation. Visualization technologies also allow for increasingly realistic 3D images. In both diagrammatic and image-based representations, it is possible to observe that vast areas of information are missing. The discrepancy between the epistemological and the ontological is clearly visible, especially in 3D images. A more recent option is the representation of the protein through music. This option, developed by the team of musician and engineer Markus Buehler, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using artificial intelligence, allows to unravel the details of the complex structure of the spike that microscopes cannot capture. The result is a representation of the spike in counterpoint, as if its geometry was detected by its negative.

In the twitethnography that I carried out, an ethnographic study carried out exclusively on Twitter about how people face COVID-19, I presented this representation first hand to some of the study participants. The reactions included emphatic questions, such as "What, can the virus be heard ?!", "Does the virus make music ?!". After realizing that it is not the virus that emits music, some of the participants questioned how it was possible to represent a "body" with music. The idea of ​​a sonar emerged, and they began to discuss the usefulness of this representation and its impacts. The astonishment was general. "How can a song help fight COVID-19?" "It is the chant of death," said one. "It's beautiful," said another. "It's horrible, monstrous," said yet another.

The horrific beauty of lethality is the latest product of the dialectic between the epistemological and the ontological in the context of the perception of SARS-CoV-2. In this dialectic emerges the old question that opposed Einstein to Bohr and Heisenberg: will we be unable to fully understand the real, or is the real that is never complete, that moves on a plane of indeterminacy, of uncertainty? A question that assaults all ways of perceiving the world. An anthropological issue par excellence.
Original languagePortuguese
TypeUm blogue colectivo sobre os tempos vividos em contexto de pandemia
Media of outputCONFINARIA – Etnografias em Tempos de Pandemia
PublisherCentro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia (CRIA)
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2020

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