Until very recently, academic debates on distant suffering have been informed largely either by empirical studies on representation or by theoretical reflections on the audience-sufferer relationship. Arguably, this scarcity of audience research in the field has allowed overly pessimistic accounts to long remain unchallenged. This dissertation aims to add to the small, albeit growing, body of studies that investigate empirically how audiences engage with representations of humanitarian disaster. The four empirical chapters explore audience engagement with distant suffering in three very different contexts: an interactive app, an online video campaign and a television news item. Results suggest that substantial parts of the audience are willing and able to be emotionally moved by depictions of humanitarian disaster, to express their engagement in various – often unpredictable – ways, and to even reflect on causes and moral significance of mediated distant suffering. While this dissertation also brings to the fore some of the fundamental limitations of engagement, the findings suggest that a position of excessive pessimism regarding audiences of distant suffering is not just unproductive but also unwarranted.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Distant suffering, Humanitarian crises, Representation of suffering, Ironic Spectator, Post-humanitarianism, Compassion Fatigue, Empathy
Promotor J. Jansz (Jeroen)
Publisher ERMeCC, Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture, Rotterdam
ISBN 978-90-76665-35-1
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/1765/109690
Note For reasons of copyright there is a partial embargo for this dissertation
von Engelhardt, J. (2018, September 6). Regarding Distant Suffering : Audience engagement with representations of humanitarian disaster. ERMeCC, Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture, Rotterdam. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/109690