Design a site like this with
Get started

Tobias Thomas and IDEA Blog

The topic that really gripped me this semester was the ‘sights of suffering’, Over the last 5 years as a topic it has been topic of interest for me. From year 11-12, through to my 1st and 2nd year of university, this included undertaking research projects on mining in the democratic republic of the congo and the effect of other nations on the region, which exposed me to many images and furthered my interests. For this research task I decided to focus on one of the sections of the ‘sights of suffering’ which was the effect of social media and the virality of images of suffering. The question for this task that I have developed is:

“What is the effect of Social Media and digital media on Images of suffering? and is it positive or negative?”

This question holds profound significance in our modern day, as it becomes more and more easy to share thoughts, feelings, and stories over the ever-expanding connectivity of the internet. Even in my own experience I vividly remember a trip out of glass in Year 10 where a simple Facebook scroll exposed me to radical Islamic terrorists beheading videos. These videos were extremely prevalent back in 2016, the main issue was regular day to day run of the mill people sharing the videos thinking they were fighting the issue when really, they were spreading the propaganda and heightening fear in the community.

This topic matters to victims of suffering, in my preliminary research I look at the use of social media in the world of human rights abuses this includes but is not limited to:

  • Human rights abuse in areas of Syria by the Assad Regime
  • Media use in demonising refugees and Asylum seekers in mainland Europe in particular Belgium
  • The use of Social media by Refugees and Asylum seekers in Australian and PNG (Papua New Guinea), to document human rights abuses and raise awareness of their fight.

The research I intend to undertake will help people understand the effect that social media can have on volatile issues such as terrorism, war, and human rights abuses. I can already begin to see negative and positive uses of social medias and images of suffering. A term I stumbled on while undertaking my research was a theory of distant suffering, in the current climate in our nation with the floods and the issues in parliament house, it made sense to have two terms.

Breakdown of background research  

I Looked at several sources over the last 2 weeks to form this question and further my understanding of the topic and people affected by its study, however for maximum efficiency ill breakdown three just paint the clearest picture.

Cosmopolitan dimension of virality and the “the boy in the ambulance”

This paper is dedicated to the terms branching of cosmopolitan, I initially found this a foreign concept turns out they are not talking about the cocktail.

Cosmopolitan- “containing or having experience of people and things from many different parts of the world”.

The centre piece of this paper is the ‘the boy in the ambulance’, Omran Daqneesh. A small boy who was injured in an Assad government bombings photo was taken in an ambulance; the boy’s name was Omran Daqneesh.

ALEPPO, SYRIA – AUGUST 17: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) 5-year-old wounded Syrian kid Omran Daqneesh sits alone in the back of the ambulance after he got injured during Russian or Assad regime forces air strike targeting the Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 17, 2016. (Photo by Mahmud Rslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This, image went viral back into 2016 after a bombing. This photos virality is an instance of cosmopolitan expression, it demonstrated how significant of an effect an image of suffering can have on the public. However, this image also demonstrates how quickly that public interest can fade. I like to refer to a quote from Castell referenced in this article.

“the near Instantaneous interactivity of globally networked social media instantiates new structures of social relation and discourse” Castell, 2008

This shows in my personal perspective a notion of people and the over arching public that people are becoming numb to images of distant suffering as they’re feel over exposed, through social media and digital media.

Media use, fear of terrorism and attitudes towards immigrants and refugees: young people and adults compared

This study is from a group of Belgian researchers, focusing on the region of Flanders (large northern region) the people from this region identify themselves as Flemish.

belgium structure

The study took on 1,759 Flemish residents from the ages of 13-65 through an online questionnaire, the questionnaire contained question about feelings towards immigrants and refugees. The questionnaire revealed an over arching negative feeling towards immigrants and refugees, the researchers say they feel this is similar to other parts of mainland Europe but worse in Belgium as it becomes a jumping off point or refugees to get to Great Britain. The Researchers discuss the way the media reuses the 2016 terror attacks in Belgium to stimulate negative emotions in the community. They also offer some valuable figures from there questionnaire, Belgians have a high trust rate in the media sphere, 68% of under 25 trust the media in all aspects I found this invaluable to my research topic as I drew a direct comparison to myself and Australian youth which I argue is the other side of that coin. I link back to my own experience with the media and using terror to instil fear after the Lindt café siege, my own Grandmother didn’t feel safe going and getting a coffee alone and needed me to with her for months after she lived in rural Mullumbimby, this shows the power the media has over the population.

Self-represented witnessing: the use of social media by asylum seekers in Australia’s offshore Immigration detention centres

Main point of this article is the concept of self-witnessing by asylum seekers such as Behrouz Boochani. Behrouz is an ex-Kurdish (region in Iran) journalist and an Iranian national, he fled Iran after being persecuted for his journalism and activism (Rae, M, Holman, R & Nethery, A 2018). People in Australian detention centres are hidden from public eye offshore and away from media, most news agency reuse the same footage of detention centres when a story comes up as its hard for them to get footage. In 2015 the Australian border Act 2015, was passed this act forbids any detention worker from speaking about any specifics of their work to anyone (Australian Border Force Act, 2015). This led to anyone who could get into the facilities smuggling phones into support the cause. This is how we circle back to Mr Boochani, his posts first began appearing on Facebook in march 2013 these early posts were all in written in Persian, his early posts throughout 2014-2015 were related to the death of his friend Reza Berati in the detention centre they were held in. The first English words to come out of his posts were “torture, abuse, Oppress and rape” (Rae, M, Holman, R & Nethery, A 2018). Janet Galbraith has been essential in supporting Behrouz himself and rallying support on the outside she translated a significant amount of his early posts to English from Persian. I feel this study will be pivotal to my future research, and wish to explore it and the stories further.

Here is a song about Reza Berati I found in 2018 as an legal studies student.

Sources and biblo


Published by Tobias Thomas

Just trying not to fail UNI, because I don't want to go work on the mines

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: