Edited By Simon Cottle and Glenda Cooper
Part One: Humanitarianism and Communications in a Changing World
Humanitarianism and Communications in a Changing World p a r t o n e The recent explosion of social media alongside the exponential growth in mobile telephony around the world, as well as remote satellite surveillance, crisis mapping and crowd sourcing, SMS (short message service) texting, and new digitalised appeals and donation transfers are just some of the communication developments now making their mark on the contemporary field of humanitarianism.1 To bor- row a phrase from social theorist John Thompson, they are contributing to the ‘transformation of visibility’ (1995, pp. 119–148) and, as they do so, they are help- ing to shift traditional relations of communication power (Pantti, Wahl-Jorgensen, & Cottle, 2012). The opportunities that these technologies afford, as well as their associated risks and the less-than-progressive uses to which they can sometimes be put, demand careful attention. But this is only one half of a globally spinning coin. On its other side, the nature and forms of humanitarian disasters in a globalising world are also fast changing, and these warrant no less serious recognition—and concerted world responses. And, as we shall consider, new forms of global crises and today’s communications ecology have become deeply, sometimes disturbingly, intertwined. This chapter sets out first to briefly situate the changing nature of humanita- rian disasters in globalised context before, second, offering some general observa- tions on what exactly is distinctive about today’s reconfiguring communications ecology in the opening decades of the twenty-first century and how it matters within the field of...
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