Paper: Communicating humanitarian crises to save ‘distant strangers’: How new technologies and platforms have shaped responses over two decades (2003-2023)

Paper details

Paper authors Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert
In panel on Mis/disinformation during crises: is humanitarianism part of the problem or the solution?
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Humanitarian technologies and innovations have massively expanded over the past decade or more: from technologies to map, gather information, and adapt responses, to technologies to ensure better aid distribution to individuals affected by crises. The new digital technologies have not only reshaped how aid is delivered, but also how activism, humanitarian advocacy and communication is carried out, and thus mobilization for others’ suffering. While social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been said to facilitate large scale social movement and uprisings, like the Arab spring movements, it has also facilitated the organization of campaigns to raise awareness, crowd funding, crowd mapping and ‘regular citizens’ coming together to collect and deliver basic assistance in times of crisis. As developments continue, from one platform to the next – now with AI as the next big thing – this changes the parameters of both how we are informed about ongoing crises and how humanitarian actors – broadly understood – communicate about these. This paper proposes to look back at the developments since the early 2000’s in order to better grasp what has changed and how. By drawing a critical timeline of events, it analyses the key communication devices that have been part of shaping responses to some of the major crises over the last two decades: from the early usage of social media to organize campaigns for the victims of the war in Darfur to the various technologies put to use to organize support and care for Ukrainian victims of the war started in 2022.