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Humanitarianism, Communications and Change

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Edited By Simon Cottle and Glenda Cooper

Humanitarianism, Communications and Change is the first book to explore humanitarianism in today’s rapidly changing media and communications environment. Based on the latest academic thinking alongside a range of professional, expert and insider views, the book brings together some of the most authoritative voices in the field today. It examines how the fast-changing nature of communications throws up new challenges but also new possibilities for humanitarian relief and intervention. It includes case studies deployed in recent humanitarian crises, and significant new communication developments including social media, crisis mapping, SMS alerts, big data and new hybrid communications. And against the backdrop of an increasingly globalized and threat-filled world, the book explores how media and communications, both old and new, are challenging traditional relations of communication power.
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Chapter One: Humanitarianism, Human Insecurity, and Communications: What’s Changing in a Globalised World?

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Humanitarianism, Human Insecurity, and Communications

What’s Changing in a Globalised World?

SIMON COTTLE

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 borrow 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 helping 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.

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