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The Power of Video Imagery

Posted by: Annie Voy | March 26, 2011 | 13 Comments |

An interesting opinion piece from CNN about the power of the media in shaping global attention.

under: Links

Responses -

“Over the past few decades, the world has enjoyed, or been repulsed by, several shared media experiences, some of which helped to chart the course of history.” I do not think the world has enjoyed media experiences charting the course of history. However, I would say the media has assisted in taking snapshots of the world in times of need and history (being made or in the making). When we saw the president’s inauguration, how did we see it? If we were not lucky (aka receiving a ticket to the inauguration), then we probably saw it via the news (the media) or online (once again, the media).

As for the stories that go all but completely unnoticed, we do not have any video of the children due to two reasons: there is not a media company hungry enough to bring this story to its viewers, and the viewing public may not desire the video of the children. I do not think people would want to watch death (unless you are like Ricky in the movie American Beauty, but then that’s another story . . . ). No video on the rapes of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because no person would want to view those videos. Regarding the video of children dying from and infected with HIV, we do not need video of this since we realize how much of an impact HIV can make on a person’s life (and we already see people with HIV in our own country).

“How can we have a shared media experience with such an inconceivable volume of images? To gain a significant audience on YouTube, one must be humorous, outrageous or remarkable. Is your kitten wrestling a German shepherd? Is your daughter spewing racist rants against Japanese students calling home? Is your three-year-old prodigy playing Mozart sonatas?” Frankly, I believe every person who posts something on YouTube thinks what they have recorded (or done or be a witness to) is important enough to use time to try to garner reactions from people (and everyone thinks what they’ve done is the next big thing or everyone should view their video).

“Or optimism that, someday, we will not need shared media experiences to instill a deeper desire in all of us to help victims of poverty and injustice, that we will respond to pain and suffering using our heads — not only when our hearts are pierced by images.” I don’t think this will happen in our lifetime. With Facebook and Twitter taking over as social media outlets, we will continue to have human emotions and want to share pictures we know of—even if those pictures are from an earthquake, tsunami, or another natural disaster.

The article ends with the statement “Or optimism that … we will respond to pain and suffering using our heads — not only when our hearts are pierced by images.”

This really caught my attention. I think a big reason that people donate only when they listen to their hearts is because it is so much easier for the brain to undervalue a life. The brain hears the facts but it doesn’t factor in emotions and the human experience. When people see images it becomes more real, and they start to imagine themselves or their loved ones in that situation. It is an unfortunate truth that most people don’t take time to think about the name-less and face-less people that they have never met, but are suffering all the time.

Instead of lamenting this fact, people looking to help the developing world should show everyone that they do have a name and a face and families of their own. Human nature will not change over night, and it would be better to work with it than to fight it.

I tend to have strong opinions, especially when it comes to the media. I personally feel that the media goes overboard most of the time with their coverage of events, particularly tragic ones. I would like to see more media coverage of good news. I just feel that all the negative news can really affect our minds; we need to have more focus on positive things as well.

Also, I found the YouTube statistic to be quite disturbing. 36 years worth of video uploaded every week!!

“More than 1,000 children are infected with HIV every day, and millions more who don’t have HIV are still affected because of the death and suffering in their families. But there’s no video.

And, with no video, according to journalist Keith Epstein, there is little reason to expect people will care. ”

Its true to a certain extent. The media controls what the average person gets to see. Your average person understands that people are suffering from HIV but since the media doesn’t bring it to their attention it is lost within our daily busy lives.

When I remember the events that took place on September 11th I recall the exact location, the time and how it was that I found out. I also vividly recall the images of the planes crashing into the towers that were played over and over again on the television. I completely agree that the media shapes memories through the visuals that are displayed. I remember my 6th grade teacher turned off the television because he mentioned that he did not want those images to scar our memories of the events that unfolded that day.

It is difficult to give every tragic or heart warming story the necessary time needed for avocation on the television or internet. There are so many different events that happen all over the world every day, which make it difficult to pick and chose which should get the publicity. Every minute, people around the world post 32 hours of video on You Tube. That equates to 36 years worth of video every seven days. That statistic is mind blowing. With this much interest in the internet’s capabilities, I believe that the interests will sway from the funny video of a dog running in circles to the news of the world. It is my hope along with Richard Stearns that the events taking place in the world will be recognized and aided even if these events do not get publicized on the internet or television.

I think that the news that reporters cover at a local level are often difficult to watch, but they are more human interest stories than stories that Stearns would argue “need to be told”. For example, on the local news channels there are often disturbing stories about petty crimes, murders, robberies, and abuse. So I don’t think that people don’t want to see terrible things, but we are preoccupied with terrible things that happen within our own communities, because we feel more connected to it. The events of 9/11 were very well documented, but again that is because it happened in our country, so people care about it more. News stations and reporters have the motivation to write stories that sell, so they must have firm evidence for believing that Americans don’t want to think too much about tragedy taking place outside the US, especially if it feels like it will never affect us. I would agree that media is such a powerful tool, and when people are moved by images they are more likely to give. When George Stearns came to Spokane last year and spoke about his work with World Vision (and shared videos) people were scrambling to support his cause and become involved.

I found myself agreeing with a lot of what this article asserted. Firstly, I think that we are a culture completely dominated by media; everywhere you look, it is hard to avoid seeing/hearing a television or advertisement or song. Yet, I feel that a lot of the stories offered by the news are not necessary. So much of what we see doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but what really does matter (children dying from preventable causes, women being raped, HIV spreading, etc.) is not being shown. If we were to see images conveying those statistics mentioned by Stearns, I feel that they would have a much larger impact than, say, watching a ridiculous video on youtube. People would likely, as Stearns says, “respond to pain and suffering using our heads”. I also really liked his optimistic viewpoint that one day, we will not need media images in order to understand crises and motivate us to assist. I think we are a society that is on media overload, and too much of something isn’t always a good thing. I genuinely hope that we, globally, can start seeing the world in a different light and feel obligated to help these victims of poverty and injustice.

I agree with Haley on the aspect that the reason why so many Americans do not feel obligated to help or care about those in other countries is because we have many problems within our own country to fix and deal with. And although our poverty levels may not be to the extremes of countries in Africa, people in our own backyards face poverty everyday. What is even worse is that in a land of opportunity like the United States, our own American Dream ideology is not conducive to many of our social institutions which just perpetuates the cycle of povery. At least in these poverty stricken countries, there is not a facade of promoting or having equality. Stearns is absolutely right in that images and videos of these horrific events taking place currently in these countries need to be broadcasted so that there is an awareness. However, I find it hard to try to implement equality and righteousness in these countries and eradicate poverty when our very own country cannot do the same.

Sadly this is very true, that video’s are needed to bring about action from a population. People these days can’t even begin to sympathize with others without seeing their pain first hand. Just reading or hearing about a tragedy does get to peoples hearts but unfortunately today more is needed to move someone to take an action or stand up for a cause. Its really sad that visualization is needed to make an impact on someone to give to their peers.

I agree with the fact that optimism is the primary reason for people to not be compelled to act on the notion that there are bad things happening in this world because there is no visual of it. While, as mentioned, when events and tragedies are televised they “all make for compelling television” they do not significantly alter the human mind’s ability to process death. We as individuals never think about death because we are either optimistic or deny the fact that it can happen. Becuase of the fact that we do no think about death, we cannot empathize with those who are suffering and dying unless we see it on television. Even then we still do not get an accurate feeling of what is going on, just emotions of sadness as one would feel in a movie. Most people grow up sheltered away from pain and suffering and while i agree that it is not a bad thing, it does prevent us from being empathetic without being influenced by a major event or tragedy.

I found this article to be very interesting. Millions of people have watched numerous tragedies and natural disasters unfold in front of their eyes on the news and through other media. On the one hand, I think that it’s good for people to see what is going on in the world and be informed, so that maybe they can do something to help. However, I think the media sometimes takes their coverage too far trying to gain audiences. The coverage of disasters often lasts for many days.

I also agree that the media should use its power to bring attention to the other problems that are present around the world, like the AIDS and the raping of girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although that’s not something most people want to hear about, if the media brought attention to the problem, maybe more people would be inspired to try and do something about the problems.

The facts about YouTube are shocking, and I have often found myself wondering how people watch so many of those videos that are usually just ridiculous. If people used that time, or even just a fraction of that time, to educate themselves about current events and problems in the world, we would be much better off.

This article shocked me. Two sentences I can’t get out of my head are: “Every minute, people around the world post 32 hours of video on YouTube. That equates to 36 years worth of video every seven days.” Are you kidding me? This is truly unbelievable to me. However, I do strongly agree with this article. We usually only act or rreact to something that has visual documentation as proof. I’ve never really thought of it as a problem, but this article clearly calls attention to it and I believe our world needs to change. Our world has become virtual; with everything we know and hear usually coming off the Internet. This needs to stop if we want to call attention to the tradegies that go unheard everyday. Very well written and insightful article.

I agree that the power of imagery illicits a very generalized action/response from the viewer of the media. It is almost a phenomenon how this happens. We have seen it after sept 11, we have seen it after the recent tradegy in Japan. A sort of universal empathy can be developed just by imagery alone. Even tonight, as Osama Bin Laden has been killed, many people can picture his long robe, his flowing beard, his face. His image is seared into our memory. Images affect us in some very powerful ways.