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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 2: Eyewitness Images in the News (Mette Mortensen)


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Eyewitness Images in the News

Mette Mortensen

Digital communication technologies have fundamentally changed the circulation of images from conflicts.1 Citizens, activists, soldiers, insurgents, and others create and circulate images presenting information, experiences, and stories from their own point of view. Previously unobtainable stills and videos are produced and distributed on a massive scale across platforms via social and mobile media. As a result, the mainstream news media no longer enjoy monopoly on reporting conflict and state/military are no longer able to control the image flow. This development has been applauded for its democratic promise in slogans such as “YouTube revolution” and “Facebook revolution,” indicating that digital communication technologies media empower citizens and raise the information level about conflicts. However, skeptics warn against security issues, political hazards, information overload, casual spread of violent images, and source criticism rendered difficult.

While eyewitness images spread in bulk via social media across national, regional, and linguistic borders, they usually only gain the attention of a larger public when published by the mainstream news media. Eyewitness footage is the only user-generated content to be routinely featured by the news media in a manner similar to professionally produced content (Pantti & Bakker, 2009, p. 485). Especially when there is breaking news of urgent situations of conflict, catastrophe, and disaster, the initial link in the chain of information often becomes images taken by individuals who happen to be present in time and space as...

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