Citizen Camera-witnessing: Embodied Political Dissent in the Age of ‘Mediated Mass Self-communication’

Andén-Papadopoulos, Kari
New media & society

This article interrogates the emerging modes of civic engagement connected to the mobile camera-phone, and the ways in which they require us to rethink what it is to bear witness to brutality in the age of fundamentally camera-mediated mass self-publication. I argue that the camera-phone permits entirely new performative rituals of bearing witness, such as dissenting bodies en masse recording their own repression and, via wireless global communication networks, effectively mobilizing this footage as graphic testimony in a bid to produce feelings of political solidarity. Critically, the performance of what I elect to call ‘citizen camera-witnessing’, as exemplified by contemporary street opposition movements including those in Burma, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Syria, derives its potency from the ways it reactivates the idea of martyrdom: that is, from its distinct claim to truth in the name of afflicted people who put their bodies on the line to record the injustice of oppression.