Citizen media as Flesh Witnessing: Embodied Testimonies of War in Western News Journalism
This chapter critiques the privileging of verification in the ways user-generated content is incorporated in western reporting of global South conflicts. We argue that the exclusive concern with truth regimes takes for granted and profits off the precarious existence of those who provide western news with the material for visual news story-telling. We introduce a view of citizen media as flesh witnessing, that is as embodied and mobile testimonies of vulnerable others that, enabled by mobile phones, circulate in global news environments as appeals to attention and action. We offer an analysis of the narrative strategies by which flesh witnessing is imbued with truth-telling authority. These are: meta-discursive, where the truth status of citizen media constitutes the newsworthiness of the story itself, curated, where its truth status is awarded through digital curation of personalised testimonies; and non-narrative, where the truth of citizen media is presented as the open-ended process of shared fact-checking.
Keywords: Conflict news • Flesh witnessing • User-generated content • Syria war • Citizen media