Journalism’s Digital Publics: Researching the ‘Visual Citizen’

Stuart Allan, Chris Peters

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Disruptions associated with either financial or technological change have long garnered most of the attention when considering the democratic challenges facing journalism in a digital era. Set against this backdrop of wider debates about journalism and democratic cultures, this chapter interweaves diverse, yet complementary strands of research to help discern, first, the ways in which journalism’s digital publics are becoming increasingly image-ready, willing and able, and second, the implications for remediations of authority, objectivity and transparency. It argues there is heuristic value in reversing familiar emphases by adopting bottom-up, citizen-centred perspectives to explore civic modes of seeing, particularly in and through the generation, deployment, and use of digital imagery. The first part of this chapter situates this evolving ecosystem in relation to our conception of the ‘visual citizen’ (Allan and Peters, 2019). Having briefly outlined pertinent technological developments and associated sociopolitical implications for journalism, we pinpoint a guiding research rationale for investigating precipitous civic commitments to creating, curating, sharing and repurposing vernacular imagery. On this basis, we proceed to assess recent scholarly literatures exploring the visual citizen, namely as: news observer and circulator (seeing and sharing news in everyday life through news consumption); ‘accidental' news image-maker (citizen witnessing and ‘amateur’ photojournalism); purposeful news image-maker and activist (visualizing dissent and sousveillance); and, creative image-maker and news commentator (GIF and meme culture). We then conclude by highlighting possible trajectories for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Digital Media and Communication
EditorsLeah A. Lievrouw, Brian D. Loader
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)9781138672093
ISBN (Electronic)9781315616551
Publication statusPublished - 2021
SeriesRoutledge International Handbooks

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