CFP: Digital Images, Global Conflicts

Special issue of Media, Culture & Society, October 2017

Guest editors: Bolette Blaagaard, Mette Mortensen, & Christina Neumayer

The role of images in conflicts (war, terror, riot, civic action, etc.) has changed dramatically over the past decade due to globalization and digitalization. The rapid and extensive dissemination of images from conflicts results in an intensified struggle for gaining public visibility and shaping public opinion, prompting competing narratives and counter narratives, suppression, spin, and persistent allegations of falsification and manipulation.

Different actors produce, circulate, and mobilize images across media platforms and across national and regional borders. Mobile media have enabled citizens, activists, whistleblowers, and insurgents to take and disseminate images to document their experiences, sway public opinion, contest the legitimacy of authorities, secure legal evidence, and appeal for humanitarian relief. The news media still play an important role in the display and dissemination of images of conflict, but they compete with, utilize, and converge with social- and mobile media. The military, which formerly controlled the flow of images from conflicts, has in recent years developed strategies for coping with the user-generated image flow.

For example, photographic images travelling through the digital media ecology have recently marked a turning point in the debate surrounding the migration crisis due to refugees from the war in Syria. Videos and still images taken by people on the streets were routinely shown in international news coverage of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Eyewitness videos of police violence in the USA have been instrumental in attracting public attention and mobilizing civic action. Selfies taken at sites of war or terror and memes ridiculing antagonists show the intersection of popular internet culture and conflict. Images of the arrest of University students and beating up of journalists in India have produced international solidarity with the leftist and liberals’ struggle against a right-leaning nationalist government.

At this decisive moment for the role performed by images of and in conflict, traditional approaches to studying conflict and images in terms of propaganda, censorship, and news frames no longer suffice. This special issue is devoted to developing empirical insights, theoretical frameworks, and analytical concepts for understanding the circulation and meaning-making of images from global conflicts in today’s connective media culture.

We encourage contributions addressing such subjects as:

  • The transformed public visibility of conflicts and (possible) challenges and changes to traditional power balances in a globalized world.
  • The role played by images in (online) strategic communication, such as propaganda, campaigns, and recruitment by various groups and institutions involved in conflicts.
  • New genres for representing global, regional, and local conflicts proliferating on social media, such as selfies, memes, and their reconfigurations of traditional genres.
  • The role of visual icons in the age of mass production and global dissemination of images.
  • Convergence and competition between professional and non-professional approaches to documenting conflicts.
  • The transforming gatekeeping role of the mainstream mass media concerning conflict coverage.
  • New theories for understanding the changed role of visual representation of conflicts in the digitalized mediascape.
  • Analytical approaches to mobile media and networked dissemination of images of conflict.
  • Empirical investigations of local reactions and emotions sparked by images in the global media circuit

Please submit proposals for articles of approximately 500 words to the editors of the special issue,, and no later than 1 May 2016.

A selection of authors will be invited to submit a full paper of max 8000 words. Please note that acceptance of abstract does not guarantee publication, given that all papers will undergo peer review. For questions, please contact the editors of this special issue.


Deadline for abstracts: 1 May 2016
Notification to authors: 10 June 2016
Deadline for submission of full papers: 1 November 2016

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