IHSA

The International Humanitarian Studies Association is a network engaged with the study of humanitarian crises caused by natural disaster, conflict or political instability.

Humanitarianism and Media

Submitted by Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert, Timothy Wolfer
In theme The Impact of Technology and Innovation in Coping with, Responding to and Transforming Crisis

Media has for long played a central role in shaping the humanitarian field — and perhaps more specifically, the international community’s representations of the humanitarian field. This panel looks at the different ways in which media is used to report on humanitarian situations, and what impact this has.

The media’s role in covering humanitarian issues are manifold: from mediating and mediatizing humanitarian crises, initiating or serving as a platform for alerts about unfolding crises, to reporting on underlying causes of crises. Its power to frame perceptions about the key issues at stake in a crisis, or to spark attention through a carefully selected image are well-known. Humanitarian actors are also well aware of this power of media in drawing attention to crises, and thus attracting more political attention and international donations, as can be seen in the ways humanitarian organizations’ campaigns are organized. News outlets in turn often rely on humanitarian organizations for factual information on ongoing crises, including statistics or the broader political situation. The panel welcomes papers addressing these topics, as well as the broader question of where and how should media outlets and humanitarian actors work together, and in which ways should they keep a critical distance? The panel will also look at the ethics surrounding the creation of meaningful media stories from humanitarian settings that is not exploitative.

New technologies’ impact on media and communication in general also impacts communication about humanitarian efforts and needs, as seen with humanitarian organizations using social media to share their messages, using video, photos, and interactive tools, in addition to written stories. Another side of social media use relates to online activism and engagement for humanitarian issues, as the web allows anyone to launch their own awareness raising campaigns, or crowd-funding for specific causes. The panel also welcomes papers looking at how these new technologies and new forms of communication affect the broader awareness around ongoing humanitarian situations, and how it impacts on humanitarian efforts – remotely and on the ground.

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